Monday, June 13, 2022

Options With Consequences

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice  Armstrong admits to being a longtime fan of Oprah Winfrey, who brought to prominence Dr. Mehmet Oz, now the Trump-loving, conspiracy-mongering, outwardly right-wing GOP nominee for the US Senate from Pennsylvania.

In her piece written on May 20, when results of the Republican primary hung in the balance, Armstrong noted she watched Winfrey's "show religiously and subscribed to her magazine. She's my friend in my head,"  She believes "Winfrey couldn't have predicted that Oz would become a dangerous threat to Pennsylvania by peddling pseudoscience amid a pandemic and election conspiracy theories. However, Armstrong concluded by writing "But she can use her enormous influence to make sure that voters know where she stands now. It’s time for Oprah to denounce Oz."

Though right about Mehmet Oz and the responsibility of his mentor to speak out in this critical Senate contest, Armstrong makes a common, albeit subtle, mistake (also made by the narrator in the video below) when she remarks

Her early endorsement of then-candidate Barack Obama helped turn the tide in his favor during the 2008 presidential election and helped America make history by electing its first Black president. Four years later, she turned out for Obama again in a big way during his reelection campaign. Winfrey also campaigned for Hilary Clinton and even considered a run against Trump in 2020.

Armstrong linked to an article, written by Annie Karni and published by Politico in January of 2018, which undermines Armstrong's suggestion that Winfrey actively worked for the election of Clinton. Evidence suggests that Winfrey offered only tepid, indirect support for Clinton in 2016 after having fervently opposing her in 2008. Karni wrote 

Where the heck was Winfrey in 2016?

Busy with her own business interests that made a full-throated Clinton endorsement too much of a conflict, is part of the answer, according to former campaign aides. And she was simply not as personally invested in Clinton’s candidacy as she had been in the historic run made by her personal friend and fellow Chicagoan eight years earlier — when some economists credited her with helping Barack Obama secure 1 million votes in the Democratic primary alone.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying from Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters.

In June of 2016, the task of wooing Winfrey was handed over to Minyon Moore, one of Clinton’s longtime advisers, who had recently taken a leave from her consulting job at the Dewey Square Group to work as a senior adviser on political strategy for the campaign.

Winfrey had initially raised hopes in Clinton’s camp by telling “Entertainment Tonight,” during a red-carpet interview, that “I’m with her” — a quick-hit endorsement that buoyed spirits at campaign headquarters, especially because the campaign operatives had not helped Winfrey craft it, or planted it.

Moore was dispatched for some quick follow-up to see what else the country’s biggest motivational speaker and celebrity might be willing to do for Clinton, as the candidate began turning her sights from the never-ending primary against Bernie Sanders to the general election against Donald Trump.

But there was disappointment in Brooklyn when it was reported back that an occasional “I’m With Her,” sprinkled here and there in television interviews, would likely be it, according to multiple former campaign aides.

Moore was well-known as one of a fiercely loyal inner Clinton circle of African-American women whom the former first lady had surrounded herself with and promoted since her days in the East Wing. She also came with a few of her own Oprah-world connections, which originally made the campaign hopeful of more Winfrey kudos to come.

“I knew one of [Winfrey’s] top producers,” Moore said in an interview on Thursday. “We tried to figure out if there was a timing or scheduling match. We tried to figure out what type of interview could work, what kind of event she might do.”

But nothing worked. “It was a timing issue,” Moore said, noting that Winfrey was launching two shows that summer on the Oprah Winfrey Network — “Queen Sugar” and “Greenleaf.”

“She was doubled down on that,” Moore said. “I appreciate the fact that she had a big piece of business she had to deal with. I never took offense to it, and I don’t think Hillary ever took offense to it. She was grateful any time she saw Oprah’s positive comments.”

"It was a timing issue," claims Moore, who, contrary to legitimate suspicion, did not proceed to argue for the existence of the Easter Bunny.  Clinton was grateful for Oprah's sort-of positive comments because she had no reason to believe Winfrey would even imply any preference for the Democrat in the general election.

Only Oprah Winfrey knows Oprah Winfrey's private thoughts.  However, we do know that she endorsed, and avidly supported, Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008, then did little or nothing to help Barack Obama once he obviously would be the one facing the GOP ticket in the general election. Four years later she resisted efforts to do anything more than the bare minimum for Barack Obama's preferred successor, Mrs. Clinton

Ms. Winfrey has several options. She could criticize Oz and endorse Democrat John Fetterman, combining it with an endorsement; offer kind words for, but not endorse, John Fetterman; criticize Oz but avoid an endorsement; endorse Oz; campaign (however briefly) for the candidate she selects; explain that she is remaining neutral; remain neutral and silent. There may be other options.

Few people if any know how Winfrey will go in this pivotal election. However, control of the Senate, even the future of democracy, is in play and failure to use her immense influence to  help erode the destructive power of Trumpism would be an odious decision.


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