When COVID-19 was just beginning to wreck havoc on the United States, we learned that actor Tom Hanks had tested positive for coronavirus. In what would have been a concerning story turned into a very strange and disturbing rumor.
Someone alleged that Hanks revealed his diagnosis so that he wouldn’t be arrested in a sex trafficking ring of which Oprah was the leader. The rumor gained traction when people asserted that Harvey Weinstein was the one to drop this story from behind bars. Apparently, Weinstein had a list of celebrities who would be “outed” and arrested as a result.
People claimed that Oprah’s home had been raided recently.
The rumor spread so quickly and gained so much traction that Oprah became the number one trending topic on Twitter.
While plenty of people found it insane, there were more people when began to lend credence to the rumor. So much so that Oprah hopped on Twitter to address it.
Now, nearly two months removed from the ugly accusation, Oprah shared how the allegations shook her to her core.
In the latest issue of O Magazine, Oprah said, the whole thing represented her worst fear.
“Imagine sitting cozily in bed, when you get a phone call telling you you’re trending on Twitter. And you discover it’s a bogus and vile story that you were arrested and your home was raided for sex trafficking and child pornography,” said Oprah. “I can’t and don’t want to imagine an uglier accusation. At first I was confused. Yes, that’s my name: “Oprah.” But I’m in bed in my pj’s and socks, and somehow #OprahArrested is a thing. My worst fear realized. Being slandered, accused of a crime I didn’t commit.”
Oprah has been famous for many of our entire lifetimes. Still, she shared that after decades in the limelight, she still hasn’t become accustomed to reading false stories about herself.
“In 1988, I pulled a wagon carrying 67 pounds of fat onstage during what is still the highest-rated Oprah show ever. From that day forward, I was exploited regularly with false, crude, inappropriate stories about me and food. And then about me and Stedman. And me and Gayle. Anything and everything that could sell a tabloid. Every week, another lie to ignore or deny. I never got used to it. I always feared what the next false headline would be. Why? Because I knew for sure that while a lot of people dismissed the stories, a lot of other people believed them.”
Oprah believes her fear of being falsely accused goes deeper than just the challenging experience of being a public figure.
“My fear of being punished for something I didn’t do stems from growing up being whupped for minor infractions. I grew up trying to please everyone to avoid the whipping. Lies are like those lashes. As a young girl, I never got angry; whippings made me sad. The same is true today. Except the sadness isn’t for myself—it’s for what I see the world becoming. How easy it is to slice, destroy, cancel someone with vitriol. How easily people swallow and spread that vitriol with gleeful memes.”
Still, Oprah said there is a lesson in all of this.
“No matter the challenge or situation, I always ask, what is this here to teach me? And even when I don’t know the answer, I know one thing for sure. To paraphrase Genesis 50:20: What man intended for evil, God intended for good.”
This issue of O Magazine will be available on newsstands on May 19.