Obama’s Oprah Problem
Like viewers, voters want honesty.

The Obamas and Oprah Winfrey in 2008


Lee Habeeb

She didn’t see it coming. One day, Oprah Winfrey turned around, and her nationally syndicated show was sliding in the ratings, and her audience was fleeing en masse. And it happened soon after a day she thought was one of the best in her life.

Isn’t that how all the giants fall? When they least expect it?

It was the day Oprah announced she was backing the African-American candidate, then-senator Barack Obama, over the highly qualified and experienced woman candidate, then-senator Hillary Clinton.

It was the first time that Oprah put her brand on a political candidate. And her audience was expecting a very different choice.

Oprah appeared on Larry King Live in May 2007, flush with pride, and was asked the questions lots of women in her audience had on their minds.

“Is there a side of you, the woman side, that would lead toward a Hillary?” King inquired.

“Well, I have great respect for Hillary Clinton,” Oprah said. “I think I’ve said this before, and it’s true: Because I am for Barack does not mean I am against Hillary or anybody else.”

So much for the sisterhood!

And so much for that Oprah honesty that her mostly female — and mostly white — audience had come to expect all of those years.

Oprah had chosen the less-qualified, less-experienced black man over the more-qualified, more-experienced white woman. It didn’t take long for Oprah to feel the backlash.

Hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned.

Oprah’s message board was soon swarmed with angry postings. Even the major media outlets couldn’t ignore the firestorm Oprah had ignited by choosing one part of her identity over another. One ABC News headline said it most plainly: “Women Angry Over Oprah-Obama Campaign.”

Here is how that story began:

The queen of day time talk is facing heat from her largely female fans who have traditionally agreed with just about anything she has done — from the books she reads to the weight loss plans she tries. But Oprah’s endorsement of Obama is different from the typical seals of approval the host offers on her show, and as early as November 2007 commenters on her site’s message boards began unleashing criticism of her endorsement for the black candidate — Obama — rather than the female one — Hillary Clinton.

How did Oprah and her team not see this coming? Did they consider even for a moment all the trust she’d built up with all those American women over all those years? And how this decision might play?

The ABC News piece then printed a few of the thousands — no, tens of thousands — of posts by irate former Oprah fans. Here is one from a woman who identified herself as Austaz68 in a message thread titled “Oprah is a Traitor!!!”

I cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprah’s backing of Obama. For the first time in history we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the white house and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over her gender — hypocrisy at it’s finest!! Oprah — you should be ashamed of yourself!!!!!