Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Oprah controversy

Let me be perfectly clear: Oprah Winfrey can have whomever she damn well pleases on her talk show. It's her show. If she doesn't want to have Sarah Palin on, so be it. (See, this is why the "Fairness Doctrine" is ridiculous.) But Oprah, do us a favor and be honest about your reasons not to have her on. Says the Great O:

"The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over." — Oprah Winfrey, September 5, 2008

Barack Obama has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" twice to discuss his books, once in January 2005 and once in October 2006. Both of Senator Obama's appearances were made before he announced his candidacy and he has not appeared since."
Obama appeared on Oprah on January 19, 2005 ("Man of the Moment" episode) and October 18, 2006 ("Barack Obama on the Tough Questions" episode). Interesting that there are no YouTube clips of the shows, but the edited transcripts on the Oprah site are revealing. Apparently these appearances are kosher because Senator Obama did not officially announce his candidacy until February 10, 2007. Of course, contrary to Ms. Winfrey's press release, Senator Obama did not just discuss his books on these episodes. Senator Obama's potential candidacy was widely and freely discussed, especially on the 2006 episode. Oprah actually asked Obama to announce his candidacy on her show. Game over, Oprah. If that is not using her show as a political springboard, someone explain to me what is.

And further, while Oprah objects to her show being used as a platform for any of the candidates, it seems there is no problem with using her women's magazine, "O" as a political tool. The November 2007 issue featured a lovely article and spread on "The Heart and Mind of Michelle Obama." Uh, wasn't November 2007 after the Obama announcement in February?

Oprah is traveling all over the place campaigning and fundraising for Obama. She has no trouble going all-out endorsing him. The line she draws seems to be using her show, as opposed to her self, to support an official candidate. Really?

Even if you buy this argument, what is totally disingenuous about this is that Oprah is who she is because of her show. Her endorsement is valuable, not because of her personally, but because her show is so powerful and has millions of viewers and devotees. Making the distinction between the celebrity of her person and the celebrity of her show is pretty meaningless. If she was sincere about wanting "not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates," she wouldn't endorse or campaign for any candidate. A little intellectual honesty please, Oprah.

Why doesn't Oprah just come out and say she doesn't want Palin on her show because Oprah is for Obama and because she finds her support of Obama and everything he stands for to be of greater value than having fascinating strong women in leadership roles as guests? So? Wouldn't everyone be okay with that? At least it's honest. Of course, it makes a clear statement of what is really important to Oprah. And that might disillusion millions of adoring fans.

And by the way, I would be shocked if Vice President Palin ever graced the Oprah show with an appearance after November. When pigs fly, Oprah.

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