Some thoughts on Oprah in the Oval office


If indeed it was a choice between Mr T or Oprah, then that is quite frankly a no-brainer. In fact, it would prove to be incredibly challenging to find anybody as ill suited and as incompetent as Mr T. That however is not the choice … yet … and until it is, then it is wholly appropriate to point out how inappropriate a choice Oprah would actually be.

I’m not alone in this thought, others have expressed a similar view …

Oprah Myths

It is perhaps inevitable for some to criticise her on the basis of complete fiction. Here are a few examples doing the rounds as a response to the suggestion that she might run …

Claim: She supposedly said this – “There wasn’t anything illegal by me introducing very young women into Harvey Weinsteins [sic] home. Most were over 21. What they did was none of my business. This is just how it is in the industry if you want to get ahead.  ~ Oprah Winfrey”

Claim: During a 2013 BBC interview in which she was asked whether or not she believes the problem of racism has been solved. Her alleged response? In order for the problem of racism to be solved, “old white people have to die.”

Given the observation that her speech simply inspired others to ponder the idea of her running and that in turn led to the manufacture of outright myths, it is perhaps inevitable that if she did seriously run, then rather a lot more of this type of fiction would pop up. Hillary Clinton is wholly familiar with the creation of such deliberate fraud that is designed to manipulate feeling. The one and only credible crime that Hillary is actually guilty of is that she was the wrong gender. Almost everything else you think you know about her is probably wrong due the the literally decades of a flow of misinformation and myths being circulated by the right-wing.

Why is Oprah in the Oval office a bad idea?

Mythology aside, the speech was not simply fine, it was inspirational. That however is not the issue here. Instead the problem is her long track record of complete and utter detachment from scientific reality.

This is neither a slur nor fiction, but instead is wholly and completely factual. If you are familiar with her daytime TV show then you will also perhaps be familiar with her very long track record that involved the promotion of pseudoscientific nonsense.

Several have recently written extensively on this, and so it is worth  pointing you to those articles, which come with links so that you can check it all yourself. Let’s take each it turn.

VOX: Oprah’s long history with junk science

Julia Belluz writes about this in VOX on Jan 9th. If you are familiar with the Oprah show then the names Dr Oz and also Dr Phil will be recognisable.

Dr Oz …

In 2004, Dr. Oz made his first appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where he was referred to as “America’s Doctor” (a moniker he trademarked). As a regular medical expert on Oprah, he used the platform to back a range of questionable health practices, including lending credibility to the Brazilian spirit medium and well-known huckster ”John of God.”

The Oprah seal of approval helped Oz get his own show by 2009. Her instincts about his potential were good, in a sense: Oz is immensely popular, and his media empire now extends to books, magazines, radio, websites, and, of course, TV. But on The Dr. Oz Show, the cardiothoracic surgeon has regularly promoted bad science and bogus health advice.

In 2014, Oz was called before a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection. He was asked by the senator in charge, Claire McCaskill, to explain his use of “flowery” language to champion weight loss fixes that don’t actually work. She then admonished him for endorsing a rainbow of supplements as potential “belly blasters” and “mega metabolism boosters.”As McCaskill put it, “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles.’”

In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission found that Oz’s producers did the scantest research on the show’s guests, which allowed modern-day snake oil salesmen to appear on air hawking bogus products.

Dr Phil …

Despite his medical shenanigans, Dr. Oz has an actual medical degree to his name. Dr. Phil, on the other hand, doesn’t (he only holds a doctorate in psychology and is not a licensed psychologist). But that minor detail didn’t stop Oprah from using the doctor moniker to help brand Phil McGraw, too.

McGraw also got his start on Oprah’s show, after meeting the TV star while working with her as a consultant when she was being (unsuccessfully) sued for making negative statements about the beef industry in 1995. By the late 1990s, Dr. Phil started appearing on her show as a life coach, and in 2002 he launched his own eponymous show.

Like Dr. Oz, McGraw has been censured for using his celebrity and his show for ethically dubious practices. In 2016, he was criticized for peddling diabetes pharmaceuticals through paid sponsorships that were masquerading as friendly advice about a disease from a trusted source.

That is just scratching the surface here, I’ve not even mentioned any of that New Age BS, “The Secret”, that was viperously promoted.

If you feel this is simply a racist hatchet job, then let me point out that there is not simply one source for such criticism. As another example, Dr David Gorski (a real Dr with real concerns) wrote in great detail about her deep bond with utter nonsense.

He also in note alone in speaking up, below are a few snippets regarding her Anti-vaccine peddling via an article in Mother Jones.

MotherJones: How Oprah Helped Spread Anti-Vaccine Pseudoscience

Megan Jula writes about Ophra’s propagation of anti-vaccine nonsense as follows …

there’s one area in which Winfrey and her would-be opponent are surprisingly alike: Both she and Trump have helped spread the inaccurate—and dangerous—myth that vaccines cause autism or other health problems.

…The supposed link between autism and vaccines has been repeatedly and unequivocally debunked by scientists and public health officials. (See here, here, here, here, here and here, for starters.)

… she brought Jenny McCarthy, the Playboy model and actress, onto her show to talk about autism.

… she offered anti-vaxxers an opportunity to voice their unfounded concerns on national TV

Bottom Line

This is perhaps the part where I pen a few final thoughts. Today however I’ll simply quote Dr David Gorski’s posting. He has spent rather a lot of time pushing back against the constant stream of utter bullshit that she vigorously promoted when she was on air…

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t jump on the Oprah Winfrey bandwagon for 2020. Even if there wasn’t all that credulity towards New Age bullshit like The Secret, I’d still say that replacing one celebrity with no government experience with another celebrity with no administrative experience is not the way to get out of the era of Trump. (The same goes for you, too, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!) That Oprah is not a hateful person compared to Donald Trump is not enough, particularly given that she’s almost as bad on science and critical thinking as he is.

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