On Sunday at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey gave a speech condemning sexual harassers and repeatedly warning abusers that “their time is up.” Oprah’s oratory had the left and the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — giddy with the possibility of a Democratic presidential bid.
From its official Twitter account, NBC wrote, “Nothing but respect for OUR future president,” accompanied by a picture of Oprah. It has since taken the tweet down. CNN started an Oprah 2020 webpage to provide “live updates.” Asked about presidential ambitions, Oprah’s longtime partner Stedman Graham told the LA Times, “She would absolutely do it.”
On the surface, Oprah has four things you’d look for in a presidential candidate. She is charismatic, wealthy, well-known and well-liked.
Running for president won’t change the first three things. It would, however, harm Oprah’s popularity. That’s inevitable if you’re transitioning from a feel-good empowerment guru to a partisan political figure. Her image would also take a hit once the public and some in the media started pointing out Oprah’s hypocrisy when it comes to stopping sexual abusers.
Consider her much-applauded speech. An entertainer can get away with leaving out some inconvenient details, such as the words “Harvey Weinstein.” A presidential candidate can’t.
Four months ago, Weinstein was among the Hollywood elite as a film producer and executive. That changed in October when The New York Times published a story detailing allegations that he had harassed and abused women for decades. Within a week, a dozen women had accused him of misconduct, including rape. Weinstein’s behavior looks like it was an open secret in Hollywood.
While Weinstein was feasting on young females, Oprah was the most powerful woman in the media. What was she doing to stop this predator?
Nothing. Worse, Oprah had a close professional relationship with Harvey Weinstein for more than 20 years. There are numerous pictures of Oprah hugging and kissing him. She starred in his movies and accepted awards with him. The evidence implies Oprah knew about Weinstein’s behavior and ignored it — just like most of Hollywood.
Then there’s Kadian Noble. She’s an aspiring actress who said seeing Oprah hanging on Weinstein’s arm fooled her into thinking Weinstein cared about her career. Instead, Noble said, Weinstein lured her to his room and sexually assaulted her. Imagine a commercial in which Noble tells the American public that Oprah ignoring Weinstein’s history of sexual abuses led to her assault.
In that context, Oprah’s speech goes from battle cry to bloviating spin.
Of course, ignoring victims of sexual harassment and assault has a long history in the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Bill Clinton’s victims didn’t derail her nomination. In Nevada, Democrats ignored sexual harassment by former state Sen. Mark Manendo for 20 years. Buzzfeed reported that Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s flirtations with young women were an “open secret” among those close to the Democratic congressman. Former Sen. Harry Reid elevated him anyway.
Oprah would start with advantages — high popularity and the ability to show genuine emotion — that Hillary never had. She could win.
But having a nominee who spent 20 years sucking up to Weinstein — even one named Oprah — would complicate Democratic dreams of riding the “me too” movement to victory in 2020.