Oprah’s cringe-worthy gaffe

There’s a good bit of attention generated by part of an interview Oprah Winfrey had with swimmer Diana Nyad. Winfrey questioned Nyad on her statement to producers before the show that she is “not a God person”. On Nyad’s reply that she’s an atheist, but in awe of the wonders of our world, Winfrey then took it upon herself to redefine God so as to dismiss Nyad’s statement and declare her a God person after all.

I was just thinking about this, putting it in other terms. Imagine the person she was interviewing was Barack Obama, the topic whether he identifies as African.

“You told our producers you’re not an African, but you’re deeply aware of your African roots?”

“Yeah, I’m not an African person [this could have happened in real life, if it was Whoopi Goldberg in the interview]. I’m an American.”

“But you have African roots?”

“I don’t understand why anyone would find any contradiction in that. I can stand in a hall with people who have African roots and think of themselves as Africa, I can marvel at the strength and beauty of our shared cultural influences…”

“Well I don’t call you an American then. I think if you can accept and love your darker skin, the history of your ancestors, then that is what African is. It’s not being born and raised in Africa.”

I don’t get that this woman felt it’s okay to redefine someone else according to her dictates on what’s what, when in any other context that would have been outrageous.

Never mind even African identity, what about religion? What if Oprah spoke to someone who was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity, but still appreciates the beauty in Jewish culture. What if Oprah told that person that then they are not a Christian? Would that have been okay?

It bugs me that people are so insensitive and feel such a right to dictate when someone else declares no belief in gods, when in any other context such liberties would not be tolerated.



3 thoughts on “Oprah’s cringe-worthy gaffe

  1. When, how, and why Oprah was elevated to the level where she can say these things with such authority and finality is something that has always baffled me. That she can publicly redefine the origin and quality of a sense of wonder and awe is, in my opinion, a tremendous display of hubris.

    Mind you, I was raised Catholic by a bunch of people who were born before 1920 in a very traditional Hispanic household…I can assure you that my relatives, who were sincerely pious and firm believers, would have found Oprah’s statement to be quite disrespectful. I’ve never been an Oprah fan…this just cinched it for me.

    1. My son was bored and flicking through channels yesterday when I saw the programme listed, and out of curiosity asked him to put it on that so we could see what it was all about. Oprah was talking to someone who actually shared her views, and I was gobsmacked at how even with this person, she was bossy and dictatorial about how the woman should live out her faith and what she should do in relation to some extraordinary experience she’d had. You could feel this woman’s discomfort with a stick.

      1. And this is why I generally stay away from the TV when there’s nothing else to do…between having a chance encounter with Oprah and trying to work my way through the basket of mismatched socks I keep in the laundry, I’d rather deal with the socks. 🙂

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