Oprah is pretty awesome in her own right and for decades anything she touched scaled into a colossal success. Companies clamored for her attention. Everyone from Dr. Phil to Dr. Oz were launched from obscurity to household names by Oprah.
Now, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hopes to tap that magic.
This week, while promoting her new TV drama, Oprah decided to come off the sidelines during this election cycle to throw her weight behind Hillary Clinton.
"I really believe that is going to happen," said Winfrey, 62. "It's about time that we make that decision."
"Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women," she 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," Oprah added, touting Clinton's campaign slogan and effectively endorsing the former Secretary of State.
Winfrey made the comments more off-handedly than as an active campaigner. Winfrey has purposefully stood on the sidelines compared to how she actively campaigned to get Barack Obama elected. Winfrey hasn’t been on the campaign trail, didn’t release a video with her endorsement, or dedicate time on her network for Clinton to make a pitch. In 2007, the Washington Examiner reported that Oprah lured more than 65,000 people to political rallies for then candidate Barack Obama. How many has she pulled out of their homes for Clinton in 2016?
In the interview above, Winfrey spent more time lauding The Late Late Show’s host James Cordon who also hosted the Tony Awards. More of the interview was dedicated to laughing about celebrities who’ve participated in his “Carpool Karaoke” ride segments than the substance of Clinton as a policy leader. It makes me wonder whether all of the hype over her “endorsement” of Clinton is overblown.
Furthermore, do Millennials know or care about Winfrey’s endorsements? Her famed daytime show, the Oprah Winfrey show, ended in 2011 after a legendary run of 25 years. The oldest Millennials were in their mid-to-late twenties but the youngest were still in high school or just entering college. I’m pretty sure they weren’t avid Oprah watchers.
When USAToday and Rock the Vote asked this generation what they cared about, the economy and adding jobs were top of the list. Winfrey can certainly speak to that as she started from poverty to build a juggernaut international media empire reliant on countless workers. Her rags-to-riches story should resonate with this generation, if she devoted her time to telling it and uplifting those policymakers who she thinks would make it better for other young people with big dreams to also build their own businesses. She has not.
Hillary Clinton is far from a champion for innovation and entrepreneurship. She has said that the “gig economy” as she refers to it in a pejorative tone, is bad for workers and she has supported efforts to crackdown on companies like Uber. Note to Hillary: Millennials love the sharing economy and the opportunity it affords us.
Perhaps, the pain of being burned by politics is still fresh for Winfrey. She worked hard for the Obamas in 2008 and what did she get in return? As we reported back in 2013, she received none of the access to the White House that she expected.
“Oprah intended to make her unique White House access a part of her new network,” a source close to Oprah told me. “There were big plans, and a team was put together to come up with proposals that would have been mutually beneficial. “But none of that ever happened. Oprah sent notes and a rep to talk to Valerie Jarrett, but nothing came of it. It slowly dawned on Oprah that the Obamas had absolutely no intention of keeping their word and bringing her into their confidence.”
Oprah sat out the 2012 election cycle and political battles ever since. She has preferred to dedicate her star power to other causes. So for all of the Oprah-is-with-Hillary headlines this week, this may be much ado about nothing.