Oprah Winfrey for president? Really?

On June 2, 2019, television host Bill Maher floated the name of Oprah Winfrey as a candidate for president against Donald Trump.

This is one of those screwball ideas floated by political amateurs during slack periods when there is a large field of presidential candidates, in either party, and no one candidate is breaking out because the campaign is still months away. It is sort of like November 1987, when Democrats like House Speaker Jim Wright and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Beryl Anthony were touting Donald Trump as a Democratic candidate for president.

Maher says he has scrutinized the notion of Winfrey for president from every angle and found Winfrey to be a “sure thing.”

“I have Nate Silvered the shit out of this,” he said.

Well, let’s see.                     

In the MeToo era, Winfrey has been great at talking. In January 2018, three months after the movement began, Winfrey jumped on the bandwagon with a widely praised speech at the Golden Globes. But when push came to shove, she didn’t walk the walk. In 2003, she cut the legs out from under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accusers during his campaign for governor by giving him the forum of her show to appear with his wife by his side. His accusers were excluded from the program and Winfrey didn’t bother pressing him about the issue while he and his wife cuddled.

Market Watch reported, “On ABC, Oprah Winfrey had no qualms about inviting the candidate and his TV journalist wife Maria Shriver on her show without grilling him on behalf of her overwhelmingly female audience, raising the ire of many viewers.”

“Oprah Winfrey was another media friend who helped Schwarzenegger weather the storm when the sexual-abuse allegations hit, inviting him onto her woman-focused program on the blockbuster first show of the fall (9/15/03),” said an account by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. “Winfrey fawned over her ‘good friends’ Maria and Arnold, and asked no hardball question about either the racism or misogyny complaints.”

Winfrey’s love fest helped defang Schwarzenegger’s “groping” persona and likely was responsible for rehabilitating his image enough for him to win.

Then there was Winfrey’s role in helping the Bush administration sell the war against Iraq to the public.

On October 9, 2002, the day before the U.S. House voted on authorizing war, Winfrey again stacked her program with one viewpoint, this time only pro-war hawks. She brought on Iraqi defector Intifadh Qanbar, Brookings Institution “fellow” Kenneth Pollack, and the incredible New York Times reporter Judith Miller to exaggerate the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Again, the program was framed to discourage dissent, and when a well-informed audience member questioned their “facts” as propaganda, Winfrey chastised the woman and then shut her down: “We’re not trying to propagandize – show you propaganda. We’re just trying to show you what is. Okay, you have a right to your opinion.” But Winfrey didn’t invite her to express it.

Note that the “we’re” in Winfrey’s verbiage put her in the Bush camp.

For war, against harassment victims. Try those items in your Nate Silvering, Mr. Maher.

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