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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Winfrey’s omissions reflect her character

What can one truly say about Oprah Winfrey that hasn’t already been said?

The bright eyed girl from Mississippi, who went from rags to riches, truly exemplifies the idea that any man, woman, and child in this great nation can accomplish anything. Her charities raise millions each year for the needy, she frequently helps Americans get their careers started, and she uses her wildly popular talk show as a forum to fight injustice wherever it may be.

But every now and again, the television diva comes off as a disingenuous bearer of double-standards.

This becomes evident in the case of James Frey, the author that appeared on Oprah’s show a few years ago to promote his autobiography entitled, “A Million Little Pieces.” The book chronicles Frey’s “courageous” battle with drug addiction and his eventual redemption. However, last week it was proven by The Smoking Gun Web site to be a “gross fabrication of his [Frey’s] life, experiences, and criminal record.”

So a few days ago, Frey decided to reappear on Oprah’s show to apologize for his deception, hoping that he would be forgiven. Unfortunately for Mr. Frey, instead of forgiveness he received an extensive beating by Oprah and her other guests. The moment the show began, Oprah started hammering him with ruthless question after ruthless question while heaving up Gore-like sighs of fury every time she waited for a response. She also had New York Times columnists on the program to enhance her excoriating tactics. It was downright nasty according to journalist Virginia Heffernan, who writes that “Ms. Winfrey … turned in an uncanny performance, modulating her aggression with such finesse that she seemed to be the penitent one, and not the one with the whip hand.”

Oprah Winfrey probably had good reason to be upset. After all, James Frey did take advantage of her and millions of other Americans who fully believed that his book projected a veritable truth. However, it was wrong of Oprah to make such a harsh example out of Frey when one considers the number of times that she herself has lied on her own program.

For instance, shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Oprah Winfrey stood at the side of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and alleged that “hundreds of armed gang members” were killing and raping women and children inside the Superdome, leaving dead bodies all over the place. She cried out that “What happened and didn’t have to happen, happened to children. It’s pretty overwhelming. It makes me so mad. This makes me mad. This should not have happened.”

However, four weeks after the storm, most of those reports of atrocity were proven to be false. The piles of bodies never materialized, and no women and children were found raped or mutilated. “Everything was embellished, everything was exaggerated,” said Deputy Police Superintendent Warren Riley. “If one guy said he saw six bodies … another guy saw … 18.” Maj. Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard, who was stationed at the Superdome, also chimed in, remarking that “Everybody heard [about the raping and dead bodies], nobody saw. Logic was out the window because the situation was illogical.”

So Oprah Winfrey, goddess of television and hero to millions, made claims of murder, rape, and mutilation that were later proven to be completely false.

Did Ms. Winfrey apologize and at least admit that she was wrong? Absolutely not; in fact Oprah Winfrey has yet to do a program saying that these events did not happen. As a matter of fact, she does Hurricane Katrina shows practically every week and still comments about rapes and murders that never transpired even though she knows she is lying. She has been unabashedly unapologetic, yet she sees fit to whiplash James Frey for his lies while holding herself unaccountable for her own fallacious behavior. At least James Frey apologized and admitted he was wrong. But, not Oprah. She seems to be above such mundane acts. After all, apologies are for nobodies like James Frey, not billionaires like Oprah Winfrey.

There is a real problem when someone like Oprah has so much power that she is not held accountable for her lies. Television is a public trust and by propagating falsehoods on a weekly basis, she violates that trust with millions of Americans. But as long as she continues to get a free pass from the rest of us, she will never have to apologize for any of this. If James Frey has to apologize for his lies then so should Oprah. Period.

If Americans really care about the truth being told on television then they should boycott watching Ms. Winfrey’s program next time something like this happens. Or maybe we can just pass these “tiny” instances off as little white lies. I mean after all, this is Oprah we’re talking about here, right? Tell that to James Frey.

Send comments to Daniel at [email protected].

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