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Women Angry Over Oprah-Obama Campaign

ABC News

Some Say Oprah is a “Traitor” for Endorsing Obama and not Clinton

By EMILY FRIEDMAN

Jan. 22, 2008—

A month after Oprah hit the campaign trail with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, 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.

“I cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprah’s backing of Obama,” wrote austaz68 on Oprah.com, in a message thread titled “Oprah is a Traitor!!!” “For the first time in history we actually have a host at putting a woman in the white house and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over her gender  hypocrisy [sic] at it’s finest!! Oprah  you should be ashamed of yourself!!!!!”

And almost two months later, some are still fuming  sparking a heated debate among Oprah’s fiercest critics and now her supporters, anxious to defend the beloved host.

On Jan. 19, wendykwrit posted, “You know, for so long I’ve felt a connection to Oprah and all that she’s done not only for women but the world in general. She was such an idol to me and I truly loved all that she stood for. Since she threw her support behind Barack Obama I felt like she let me down.”

“I feel like I lost a friend who I thought identified with me and now I realize she’s something she’s not,” added the poster. “I refuse to even watch the show anymore.”

But for every critic of Oprah there seems to be a supporter. One poster called those angry with Oprah’s endorsement “ignorant.”

“Oprah is a traitor, you say. A traitor to whom?” asked Susanne01 on Jan. 20. “My answer would be a traitor to ignorant women who would blindly vote for Hillary because she is a woman. Grow up and get some education.”

Back in November when the first criticisms arose, Oprah issued a statement herself, defending her decision to endorse a politician for the first time.

“I thought long and hard before stepping up and out into this because it feels like I am stepping out of my pew and I know that no matter what you do, you’re going to be criticized. So, I weighed it. What is the cost for me doing it? Am I going to lose viewers? I made the decision that I have the right to do it as an American citizen and I am doing this because I feel it is the right thing to do at this time,” said Oprah in a statement provided to ABCNEWS.com.

A spokesperson added that the show’s Web site is meant to be an “open forum” for viewers to share their opinions.

“I don’t see any evidence of an Oprah effect,” said Diana Owen, an associate professor of political science and the chair of the American studies department at Georgetown University. “We don’t have any data [to show her endorsement has had an effect on voters]. The race is so up for grabs.”

The first face-off between Obama and Clinton was in Iowa, and while he did succeed with female voters in the Iowa Caucuses  receiving 35 percent to Clinton’s 30 percent  Owens adds there is no way to be sure Oprah’s campaigning could take credit for the win.

Her effect is equally unclear in both New Hampshire where Clinton garnered 46 percent of the female vote to Obama’s 34 and in Nevada where more than 50 percent of the females preferred Clinton, according to ABC News polls and analysis.

And as for Oprah’s numbers in terms of ratings, Owens suspects that not much has changed.

“[Her endorsement] certainly doesn’t seem to have diminished her popularity in terms of the show, it’s still up there in the ratings,” said Owens. “The backlash is probably a small percentage of her fans.”

A call to Oprah’s publicist for ratings information was not immediately returned.

Women’s Org Reminds Voters to Stay on Point

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women, told ABCNEWS.com that she was familiar with the negative feedback Oprah had received following her endorsement, and isn’t convinced the harsh criticism was merited.

A candidate’s race or gender should not be a factor in an election  the issues they stand for and support should be, said Gandy.

“[The postings] are not a fair characterization of Oprah,” said Gandy. “There are other reasons she chose Obama than his race  we all choose candidates because they embody our hopes for the future.”

NOW has endorsed Clinton for president, but Gandy told ABCNEWS.com that in the past the organization has chosen male candidates over female candidates, resulting in an outcry similar to the one Oprah is facing.

“We got a lot of grief from women saying, ‘How could you did this’ and ‘how could you endorse a man over a woman,'” said Gandy. “But we endorse the candidate that we think will be the strongest for women.”

Had Obama been more outspoken on women’s issues during his time in the Senate, said Gandy, NOW would have had no hesitation in endorsing him over Clinton.

Could Oprah’s Obama Endorsement Backfire?

With Super Tuesday just around the corner, when 22 states hold primaries on Feb. 5, how women will vote will matter to each and every presidential candidate. It’s unlikely, though, that Oprah’s own political agenda will have much effect on the results, said Sid Milkis, a White Burkett Miller professor of politics at the University of Virginia.

“Traditionally celebrities haven’t had that much impact on campaigns,” said Milkis. “Obama doesn’t need help getting large crowds either, he’s a celebrity in his own right and if there’s been any criticism of him it’s been to do with his lack of experience [not his friendship with Oprah].”

In fact, rather than hurt the way females turn out to vote for Obama, Oprah’s political agenda may only hurt her own franchise, says Milkis.

“Anyone who can make a best seller out of Anna Karenina has tremendous appeal,” said Milkis. “This is the first time she’s taken a political position and she needs to explain why she felt compelled.

“Sometimes when you go political like this it goes sour,” added Milkis.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

January 22, 2008 - Posted by | Current Events, News, Politics | , ,

10 Comments »

  1. Why can’t Oprah back the right candidate? I am a woman but not going to vote for Hilary. She is not the one for the country regardless of her gender.

    Comment by Gerorgee Balint | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. I am a woman and l will not be voting for HILARY because l do not like her policies and her nastyness and her heir of entitlement.

    just because she is a woman does not mean all women should vote for her. If women do that, it shows we as women are stupid.

    Comment by Julie | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. I am a woman and I will not be voting for Obama because his wife acts like educated trash.

    Comment by Anonymous | January 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. I have not watched the Oprah show since she decided
    to become involved politically in the presidential race. Her decision to NOT support a woman was absolutely incomprehensible. I feel that the Oprah I thought she was in standing up for women is GONE. She no longer has my support either, not in TV viewing nor her magazine.
    Vote HILLARY in ’08–yes, it’s time for a change and
    that change has a name–Hillary Clinton!! (no thanks to Ms. Winfrey either).

    Comment by ann | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  5. Oprah will never recover from the shameless and racist backing of Obama. She lost the favorite chat show host title to ellen for the first time in years. Her ratings are down. I have met dozens of women who are sick to the stomach with betrayal. It is not just that she is going to hell and back to stop the only female candidate getting to power, but it is immoral that one of the most powerful women in the world, who gets people to buy the ice cream she likes, the books she reads and the shoes she wears, is using her power to get her PERSONAL FRIEND into power. It’s not because you and Obama’s wife sip Martinis, served by “good white folk”(her words), together that you are in any position to decide who should be in power. If B. Hussein Obama were white, there is no chance in this world or the next that Lady Winfrey would go anywhere near him. As for using the great MLK’s name to get her puppet friend into power, King would be turing in his grave. That is not why he fought!!!! Shame on you Winfrey. You have lost thousands of previously faithful fans, myself included, and have also sold part of your soul.

    Comment by monique2008 | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  6. monique2008,

    Very thoughtful and clear comment. Thanks for responding.

    Comment by Bob Sacamano | January 31, 2008 | Reply

  7. Oprah has the right to support whomever she wants to support. All those ingnorant woman out there who think that Oprah should support hillary because she’s a woman shuld go back to school and read a book. Oprah has not been or will never be a femanist. She is a fair human being and gicves all her decisions carefull thought. In her oppinion Obama is the one who can do the best job in the white house at this point and momnet not Hillary.

    Comment by Sally | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  8. I have loved Oprah for many years. However like many American women I feel Oprah has not done her homework where Obama is concerned. He has very little knowledge of how this country should be lead. Anyone who reads and watch’s his speech’s would find he avoids answering important questions. Mostly that is due to the fact he doesn’t know the answer. I always looked up to Oprah and felt she had our backs. But now I feel Oprah is more of a follower and really doesn’t do her homework when it comes to issues that are important like who should run our country. I wish Oprah would open her eyes and really research his history before backing someone that she sees from face value.

    Comment by sherry | August 23, 2008 | Reply

  9. Well, it is obvious where Oprah’s heart is. They say people put their money where their heart is. She cleverly had BO on the show early in an effort to market him. She knew at that time that he would very likely be a presidential candidate. In fact, she gushed all over him and encouraged him to run for the presidency. Then she had 3 million dollar fundraiser for him. Soon afterward, she announced “I don’t want to use my show as a political platform.” Oh my …how interesting. She is soooo smart. And we are so dumb. Goodness.
    And more and more it is getting more and more obvious, if you don’t grease her palms or if you are not all about Oprah and Oprah’s issue, you don’t get on the show. It makes no sense at all that she would be okay with snubbing her fan base or snubbing strong women. I personally, would have liked to see both H. Clinton and Palin on the show. Why not? They are both interesting and strong women. She is enamored with BO to the point of doing things that seem incongruent with what she has said over the years that she stands for. She seems to stand for nothing…possibly deception. She absolutely has the right to do what she wants…including putting who she wants on the show. We absolutely have the right to turn her show off and to not buy her magazine. It is embarassing that we watched it and just assumed that she meant what she said. Oh well…live and learn. Turn off Oprah and tune out her candidate.

    Comment by Sandy | September 12, 2008 | Reply

  10. […] running for public office. Many people questioned her decision, saying that Oprah was betraying her gender. Oprah retaliated with this statement regarding her decision in endorsing Obama: “I thought long […]

    Pingback by Communications 160: Celebrities in Politics « Goodgollymissmolly23’s Blog | December 11, 2008 | Reply


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