WANTED: Oprah Winfrey On The Obama Campaign Trail

October 11, 2012  |  

Source: AP Images

Remember the woman who was nearly drooling at the mouth at the mere mention of Barack Obama’s name in 2008? Where is she?!

Anyone who was around during the last presidential election knows that Oprah Winfrey nearly had Obama’s back more than Michelle on the campaign front. Don’t act like you don’t remember the way she would hold out “O-ba-maaaaaaaaaa” anytime she was introducing the President or his wife. Michelle even became the first person to share a cover with Oprah on the April 2009 issue of O; and the Commander-in-Chief and first lady also joined Oprah on one of the final episodes of her talk show last November. I’m tempted to say the thirst was real. But that’s not an accurate term. The support and love for the African American leaders of our nation was real, or at least it appeared to be, because during this election season all we’ve heard from Oprah are crickets.

This isn’t a new observation. Plenty of people have been waiting for Oprah to pop up somewhere along the line with a “Soul Sunday” or “Next Chapter” special of some kind, but so far we’ve been given nada. President Obama will be featured in the November issue of O, but so will Romney, meaning the coverage is based on the newsworthiness of the 2012 election not Oprah’s belief in “Hope” and “Change.” So why this change?

Some would have us believe the reasoning behind the dwindled support is quite salacious. In his book, The Amateur, author Edward Klein alleges that adviser Valerie Jarrett turned Michelle Obama against Oprah when the queen of daytime talk got a little too comfortable with the Mr. and the Mrs. He wrote:

What good was it being the gatekeeper if you couldn’t lock the gate when you wanted? And so Valerie set about turning Michelle against Oprah. Oprah was too close to the president . . . Oprah was acting like she was the first lady . . . Oprah didn’t know her place . . . Oprah was a bad influence . . . Valerie advised Michelle to “distance herself” from Oprah and cut her out of the White House inner circle.

IT didn’t take much to convince Michelle. As Michelle knew only too well, her husband had a compelling need to win the approval of strong women like Oprah. He seemed to be in awe of the talk-show host, sometimes giving her advice priority over Michelle’s. For instance, Oprah thought that Obama was overexposing himself on television and told him to pull back. Though Michelle disagreed, Obama listened to Oprah and restricted his TV appearances. As far as Michelle was concerned, Oprah’s billions and her elite lifestyle disqualified her as an adviser to Barack, who had no truck with wealthy people, except as a source of campaign contributions, and was a redistributionist at heart.

While that tale could very well be true, I’m inclined to believe what I feel is a more probable explanation, also outlined in Klein’s book: Oprah’s support for Obama was hurting her. Klein wrote:

As it turned out, a sizable chunk of [Oprah’s] audience took offense and stopped watching her show. No sooner had Oprah hit the campaign trail, appearing beside Obama at one primary rally after another, than her personal favorability ratings began to slide, falling from 74 to 66 percent. Her unfavorable ratings suffered an even worse fate; they jumped from 17 to 26 percent.

Oprah somewhat confirmed those concerns earlier this year when she told Charlie Rose on CBS “This Morning,” “I’m 100 percent behind our president.” But “I will not be out there because I’m trying to fix a network.” Being the superwoman that she is, Oprah could no doubt figure out a way to juggle OWN and hop on an Obama PSA or two. What she’s not saying is she can’t afford to isolate the Republican supporters who watch her show by pushing her political agenda. And I don’t blame her for that. The gray skies are just starting to clear up for the Oprah Winfrey Network thanks to her celebrity interviews. Pushing a pro-Obama agenda could send the channel right back into the red, and I’m sure her investors wouldn’t be too happy about that, given the millions of dollars they’ve already lost.

Though it might be more entertaining to make up wild stories of black-on-black woman beef to explain Oprah’s absence this campaign season, I’m more inclined to believe the reason she’s been behind the scenes is much more business than personal, and I’m OK with that.

Why do you think Oprah has been more lowkey with her support of Obama during this election season?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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