If her soaring-yet-vacuous speech at the Golden Globes was any indication, Oprah Winfrey is taking the idea of a presidential run seriously. And, if polls are any indication, Democrats are taking a possible Oprah run seriously, too.
If she runs, Oprah certainly won’t be the first celebrity to throw her hat into the presidential race. After all, with Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump (not to mention several famous generals), there’s plenty of precedent for making the jump from stardom to the West Wing.
However, there is at least one first that Oprah can lay claim to, should she decide run: She would be the first presidential candidate to ever say that a segment of the electorate “just (has) to die.”
Come again? Yes, it seems that Oprah wasn’t too keen on old people she felt were “marinated” in hate. So, during a 2013 interview with the BBC, she said that generation — at least, she implied, its white membership — needed to kick the bucket in order for progress to be made.
The interview occurred as Oprah was on a publicity tour for the movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” in which she plays the wife of a black White House butler. (A movie which, for what it’s worth, was released by The Weinstein Company; Winfrey’s relationship with the disgraced media mogul/accused rapist is yet another hurdle for a prospective Oprah 2020 candidacy.)
During the BBC interview, she was asked whether some Americans opposed the policies of then-President Obama because they were racist, according to the Washington Examiner.
That little demagogic softball was de rigueur for interviewers at the time, so the line of questioning certainly wasn’t anything unique. Oprah’s answer, however, was definitely of a singular nature.
“Of course the problem (of racism) is not solved,” Oprah said:
“As long as there are people who still — there’s a whole generation — I say this, you know, I said this, you know, for apartheid, South Africa, I said this for my own, you know, for my own community in the South — 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.”
Well, that’s one way to court older voters.
Nobody denying that there are racists both in the United States and abroad, and supporters of apartheid in South Africa or Jim Crow in the South definitely qualify. That said, I’d like to shift gears for a moment here; it’s worth noting the slight coincidence that Monday was the day commemorating the apostle of nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. You’ve probably heard bits of it or maybe even all of it, but if you have 17 minutes to spare, I would implore you to examine it further:
Now, pop quiz: Was there anywhere in the speech where you heard Dr. King say, “I have a dream! And in that dream, those who oppose my agenda just have to die!”?
No. In fact, during his entire career, I never heard King once say that the racists who violently opposed him with the most despicable tactics available to them– and who ultimately cut short his life with a bullet to a head — needed to die off. He preached radical love, to benefactor and bigot alike.
Another coincidence I’d like to draw your attention to: At present, we’re now having a debate over whether our president called certain nations “s***hole countries” and whether that was appropriate. At the same time, the same political wing feigning shock and outrage over that two-word linguistic construct is now seriously considering a possible presidential candidate an individual who literally said that the nation would be better off were some citizens to die en masse.
Of course, liberals have jumped to Oprah’s defense in this matter before. Snopes, our favorite fact-challengedfact-checking site, declared the supposition that Winfrey said white people had to die as false, using some impressive logical gymnastics to support that position.
“Winfrey’s remarks weren’t specifically targeted at white people,” Snopes claimed. “She did not say ‘All old white people have to die,’ or ‘White older people have to die,’ or any other fabricated, race-based version of her actual remarks. In fact, she never uttered the phrase ‘white people’ at all.”
While she never used the phrase “white people” in her answer, the dog-whistle inherent in what she said was more than clear — and anyone who claims not to get it is either lying or too dense to be participating in this conversation. Snopes elides the fact that Winfrey was answering a question about racism against a black president, and they also conveniently ignore that she named apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South as the milieus in which the group of people that needed to “die off” were “marinated in” hatred.
When someone tacitly invokes the specter of ghouls like George Wallace, P.W. Botha and Orville Faubus, the only people who don’t realize what race that person is referring to are those who choose to remain purposely ignorant for their own ideological reasons.
Even if you still don’t buy that explanation, it’s somewhat difficult to imagine an American president who says part of her nation’s polity — whatever their melanin content may be — ought to die off. For every liberal who’s tried to insinuate Donald Trump is unstable and unfit for office, let it be known he’s never wished the release of death upon any demographic.
I admit that’s a pretty low bar for any public official. It speaks volumes Oprah couldn’t even manage to clear it.
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