Viewpoint

Are Trump and Republicans afraid of Oprah? They’re acting like it

By Keith Larson – Special to the Observer editorial board

President Donald Trump was unusually mild about the prospect of facing Oprah Winfrey in comments Tuesday at the White House.
President Donald Trump was unusually mild about the prospect of facing Oprah Winfrey in comments Tuesday at the White House. AP

You think Real Donald versus Hillary was Epic? I’ll give you Epic:

Oprah versus Real Donald.

Don’t think for a second it’s not brewing. That speech Oprah gave at the Golden Globes? Ostensibly, it was her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award for “Outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” It had little to do with that.

It was a stunning, stirring, rallying cry for women and equality, and against a culture “broken by brutally powerful men.”

“Their time is up,” Winfrey declared. “Their time is up.”

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Keith Larson Amelia Catherine Photography

The Talk Show Host Wing of the Republican Party jumped to the attack, linking Winfrey with Harvey Weinstein; taking guests and clips from her TV show out of context. Rush Limbaugh reportedly mocked her as, “The Oprah.” Paul Joseph Watson, Editor-at-Large at InfoWars.com and a major Trump supporter, tweeted, “If that speech was the best Oprah’s got, Trump’s second term is assured.”

That’s laughable.

They knock, those flocks of mockingbirds, because they know it’s what their listeners live to hear. But also because they know how formidable a foe Winfrey could be.

An even more insightful indicator of the potential power of a “Candidate Oprah” is seen in the response to her speech by Fox News, and the President himself.

Through Tuesday morning Trump – though he’s a creature of TV and commenting on Twitter, had said nothing about the speech or Winfrey herself. When he was asked by reporters Tuesday if he could beat Oprah, the man who routinely trashes anyone who’s even a theoretical threat said he could – but was uncharacteristically deferential.

“Oprah would be a lot of fun,” Trump said. “I know her very well... I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run.”

By early Tuesday afternoon, Fox News Twitter, which regularly features Trump-Loving, Hollywood-hating pundits among their hundreds of Tweets a day, had posted only a handful or so that made any mention of “Oprah” and none took serious shots.

Why were both so silent and soft? For all their bravado they both know not to go poking a bear – or its fans.

While “Real Donald Trump” has more than 46 million followers, two-thirds have come since the election. For all the mega-media-star Trump pumps himself up to be, and the force his tweeting was touted as, he had only three million when he entered the race, according to the Wall Street Journal, and only 13 million by Election Day.

“Oprah” has more than 41 million followers – today.

As for the Fox News Channel and their stable of “Cable News Leading Stars,” a big night for them is generally around four million viewers. Oprah had the No. 1 show in daytime television for nearly two decades, averaging up to 20 million viewers a day at its peak.

“A new day is on the horizon” Oprah proclaimed Sunday night, her eyes closed as if in a dream as she formed the first words; opening wide in confident wonder and accompanied by a clenched fist as she finished, floating a friendly crowd to its feet.

The Talk Show Host Wing, Fox News, and even Donald Trump already fear we’ll be hearing that line in a couple three years. In commercials. Followed by this one:

“I’m Oprah Winfrey and I approved this message.”

Observer contributor Keith Larson can be heard weekdays at Noon on AM 730 Radio Charlotte, and TheLarsonPage.com

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