Winfrey listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 20, 2013.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Is Oprah too successful to understand racism?


Oprah Winfrey has been a beloved American figure for decades. The talk show host was recently found to be one of the most trusted figures in the country, according to a poll of those who self-identify as the “center” of American politics. But this week, conservatives can’t stand her. 

The media mogul has drawn the ire of the right after comments she made about race in America and how President Obama has been treated by some of his critics.

“As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin, the problem is not solved,” she said in an interview last week, adding, “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it – in that prejudice and racism – and they just have to die.”

She also talked about the disrespect the president has faced, which, in her eyes, “occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African-American.” 

Those comments have incensed the right, who appear unable to concede that even some of the criticism hurled at the president way might be racially-motivated.

“Oprah, if black people are so mistreated and so disrespected, then how in the name of Sam Hill did you happen? Would somebody explain that to me?” Rush Limbaugh asked on his program last Friday. 

“Let me tell you something, folks,” radio host Mark Levin said on his show Monday. “Oprah Winfrey has no idea. Oh, I know she’s black, but she has no idea. No idea. Most of us have no idea what it’s like to live in a country that really is brutally racist.” 

Mark Levin may not realize it, but Oprah Winfrey was born in Mississippi in the mid 1950’s and spent the early years of her life there before moving north. 

Critics on Fox used Oprah’s comments as another chance to talk about the Affordable Care Act.

Eric Bohlert, who’s covered the right wing media for years, says that calling out the unprecedented level of disrespect that President Obama has received is what got Oprah into trouble with Fox.  ”She was saying Barack Obama has been disrespected like no other president has, and that’s the Fox strategy right there,” he said.  

PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, 11/20/13, 7:16 PM ET

Why the right hates Oprah right now

What on earth could one of the most popular women in modern media do to upset so many conservatives? Rev. Sharpton explores the issue.
What on earth could one of the most popular women in modern media do to upset so many conservatives? Rev. Sharpton explores the issue.

This is far from the first time the right has lambasted Oprah for talking about race. She got into hot water earlier this year after sharing a story about being dismissed by a sales clerk while shopping in Switzerland, and she set the right off again when she compared Trayvon Martin’s death to Emmett Till’s’s Joy Reid thinks that backlash comes from those who think successful black Americans like Oprah shouldn’t complain about society’s problems. 

“The right expects African-Americans who’ve been successful to essentially be Christmas ornaments,” she said on Wednesday’s PoliticsNation. “To shine brightly and affirm the awesomeness of America, and that’s it, and to leave behind the breadth of their experience, to never talk about it because it will make people on the right feel badly.”