Oprah Winfrey Can Win, and She's As Bad As Trump

I have long feared that the populist mania that gave rise to President Trump was not really restricted to one party; that there must be some pied piper out there capable of casting a similar spell on the Democrats. It appears we may have our equal and opposite reaction in the form of Oprah Winfrey. New polls show her competitive for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, especially in the case that former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom will be inching on 80 years, opt out of running.

Winfrey does start with a host of positives, no doubt: as the world's most prominent black female billionaire, her life story is not only right for the moment, but quite the opposite of Trump's, and evidence that it is possible to overcome poverty and abuse to achieve financial prosperity and international influence. She is more engaged with the world -- even the political world -- than was Trump, and she is already used to conversing fluently with Americans from all sorts of backgrounds. 

Oprah's litany of sins have been covered at-length by the mainstream media, from the way she has regularly given a platform to charlatans like Dr. Phil, Joel Osteen, Jenny McCarthy, and others; to the way she peddles New Age claptrap like 'The Secret,' to her Trumpian obsession with silencing her former workers from saying anything negative about her, to her perpetuation of sentimental tabloid television at the expense of reason and good sense.

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And yet even all that does not necessarily qualify her as being as bad as Trump. Her most truly egregious -- and most egregiously under-reported -- offense, for which she has never apologized, is her participation in the most disturbing moral panic in modern American history (watch the interview here): the 'Satanic Panic' of the 1980s, in which scores of innocent people were imprisoned as devil-worshiping ritual abusers solely on the basis of hearsay. Oprah Winfrey expressed not a hint of skepticism as she gave a platform to con artist Lauren Stratford, who claimed to have been brought up, as in 'many Jewish families,' (!) in a ritualistic Satanic cult that required her to participate in a parade of sadistic and perverted crimes. Claims like hers, given a platform by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, landed dozens of people in jail across the country. The mass panic, of which Ms. Stratford and fellow guest Michelle Smith, author of, with her psychiatrist-cum-husband, Michelle Remembers, were prime representatives. But it cannot be said too straightforwardly: these women were, for whatever reason, lying -- the panic was built on nothing but air; it was a total hoax, spread by impressionable, unwell, and vulnerable individuals, manipulative psychiatrists and lawyers, and sensationalist tabloid reporters like Oprah Winfrey. A representative legal travesty from this era is one like this:

Dan and Frances Keller, who ran a daycare center from their Oak Hill home in Austin, Texas, were sentenced to 48 years in prison in 1992; the charges were that the couple had dismembered infants, abused the children in their care (even using those children to carry the bones of corpses exhumed from a local cemetery), and making the children drink Kool-Aid mixed with human blood. This conviction, for crimes they did not commit, was based wholesale on the fantastical testimony of coerced children and tenuous circumstantial physical evidence presented by a Dr. Michael Muow, an emergency room physician who treated one of the girls the Kellers were alleged to have abused.

Muow later recanted his testimony. The Kellers were finally released in 2013, having served more than 20 years of their sentences.

Oprah Winfrey has never apologized for her role in perpetuating the Satanic Panic, which led to unspeakable humiliation, suffering, hysteria, fanaticism, and tyranny throughout communities all over the country.

President Trump is a clown, an embarrassment, a disgrace -- but, prior to his presidential run, he had never participated in anything as shameful and disqualifying as this. Not even the contemptible scam known as Trump U rises to this level.

I am afraid Oprah Winfrey will run for president, and I am afraid she can win the nomination of the Democratic Party, and I am afraid she can defeat President Trump in a general election. If she runs, she must be required to account for this ugly chapter in her life history. It is a grossly serious violation of good judgment, and the fact that she has hidden the extent of her errors in this sad chapter of American history from herself shows a frightening inability to meaningfully learn from her past mistakes. 
 

Alex Knepper