Oprah Winfrey announced her intention Tuesday to donate $500,000 to the upcoming “March For Our Lives,” an event that was conceived by survivors of last week’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school, and is scheduled for March 24. Its purpose is “to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address … gun issues.” “These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard,” Winfrey tweeted.
Winfrey has a long history of invariably embracing leftist political agendas and individuals. One of those individuals was Barack Obama, whom Winfrey holds in the highest esteem. Indeed, Winfrey made headlines in September 2006 when she told interviewer Larry King that she hoped Obama, her favorite U.S. senator, would run for president. The following month, she interviewed Obama and his wife (Michelle) and promoted the senator’s book, The Audacity of Hope, propelling it instantly to bestseller status.
In the Fall of 2007, Winfrey held a fundraiser for Obama’s presidential campaign at her California home and raised several million dollars. When Obama secured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in June 2008, Winfrey said: “I’m euphoric … And if he wants me to [campaign for him], I’m ready to go door-to-door.”
In August 2008, Winfrey attended the Democratic National Convention and likened the experience of hearing Obama speak, to what it might have been like “to sit and listen to Lincoln speak or Roosevelt speak or … to understand what Martin Luther King was saying 45 years ago.”
Winfrey has stated that “everybody should see” former Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth, which asserts that the greenhouse gases produced by fossil-fuel combustion are major causes of potentially catastrophic global warming. According to Winfrey’s Oprah.com website, Gore’s film delivers “the sobering news about a threat to our civilization’s future.” But Winfrey herself owns a gas-guzzling, $42 million private jet, of which she once said: “Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn’t great is lying to you.”
On the subject of immigration reform, Winfrey has called for “a clear path-to-citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants who reside in this country.” She has also voiced her belief that government has a duty to give low-income people “access to healthy food and a roof over the heads and a strong public education.”
In August 2013, soon after a “white Hispanic” neighborhood-watch captain named George Zimmerman had been acquitted of manslaughter charges connected to a high-profile 2012 altercation in which he had shot and killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, Winfrey said: “To me, it’s ridiculous to look at that case and not to think that race was involved.” She also stated: “Trayvon Martin parallel to Emmett Till, let me just tell you: In my mind, same thing.” Till, whose death helped galvanize the early civil-rights movement, was a 14-year-old black teen who in 1955 was kidnapped by two white men in Mississippi who beat him, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head, and dumped his body into the Tallahatchie River.
In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Winfrey elaborated on her comparison of Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till: “[T]here are multiple Trayvon Martins whose names never make the newspapers or the headlines…. There were multiple Emmett Tills. There were multiple lynchings. There were multiple young black boys whose names are not remembered and often not even reported.”
Asserting that “it only happens so often where I am directly confronted [with racism], where it’s so obviously ‘in your face,‘” Winfrey in 2013 recalled a late-1990s incident where she and her hairdresser had attempted to enter a New York City clothing store during business hours but were denied entry by the shopkeepers, even as white people were being allowed in. “Suddenly,” Winfrey recounted, “it dawns on the both of us. ‘Oh my god, I think we’re having a racist moment.‘”
In August 2013, Winfrey told _Entertainment Tonight_ about another encounter with alleged racism that she had experienced just a week earlier, in Zurich, where she had gone into a high-end boutique and asked to see, up close, a particular purse that retailed for more than $35,000. But the shop assistant, said Winfrey, refused to take the bag off the shelf for her, saying it was “too expensive” and suggesting other, cheaper bags instead. “And I walked out of the store,” Winfrey recounted. “I could’ve had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the black card, but why do that? But that clearly is, you know … it [racism] still exists. Of course it does.”
Also in August 2013, Winfrey said: “Sometimes I’m in a boardroom or I’m in situations where I’m the only woman, I’m the only African American person within a hundred-mile radius, and I can see in the energy of the people there, they don’t sense that I should be holding one of those seats…. Of course I can sense it. But I can never tell, is it racism, [or] is it sexism?”
In a November 2013 interview with the BBC’s Will Gompertz, Winfrey stated that President Obama was commonly a victim of racism. “There’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American,” she said. “There’s no question about that. And it’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking it.”
In the same interview, Winfrey was asked if the problem of racism in America had been solved, to which she replied: “Of course the problem is not solved…. 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.”
In June 2016, Winfrey told Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell that she was endorsing Hillary Clinton for U.S. president. “I really believe that is going to happen,” said Winfrey. “It’s about time that we make that decision.” “Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” Winfrey continued. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.” “I’m with her,” added Winfrey, touting Mrs. Clinton’s campaign slogan.
In her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in January 2018, Winfrey, noting that she herself was now “the first black woman” to win the Cecil B. DeMille award at that annual event, recalled the emotions she had felt when watching Sidney Poitier win an Oscar for “Best Actor” at the 36th Academy Awards in 1964. “I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black,” she said, “and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that.” Asserting also that “we all know the press is under siege these days,” she lauded the media for its “insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies.” And she told a story about a young black woman who, 74 years earlier, had been gang-raped by a group of white men:
“And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted [sic]. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.”
Winfrey, who earned between $210 million and $315 million each year from 2004-2011, currently has a net worth of $2.9 billion. Her principal residence is a 42-acre ocean-view estate in Montecito, California; she also owns homes in six other states and on the island of Antigua.