Following a speech condemning one of the most-discussed social ills in our time — sexual assaults on women — conversations about media mogul Oprah Winfrey launching a presidential run against President Trump dominated social media Monday.
These discussions seemed to gain traction when two anonymous sources told CNN that Winfrey’s confidants have been encouraging her to run for office for months. And Brad Anderson, the Iowa state director for President Barack Obama’s reelection, tweeted his interest in discussing the matter with the woman who encouraged Americans to get behind the former president:
“Call me @oprah. I’ve got some Iowa county chairs who would love to hear from you.”
When Winfrey's longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles Times that Winfrey would pursue a run if the public were interested, some interpreted his comment as a sort of confirmation.
“It’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it,” Graham said.
But quite a few people do not believe that the recipient of the Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment” has the chops to enter politics. While Winfrey is a proven success in the areas of philanthropy, media and business, she lacks traditional political and policymaking experience.
Some cited these deficiencies as reasons to question whether she would make a qualified candidate. However, some of these critiques came from people who supported the candidacy of Trump, a person who also had no political or policymaking experience before heading to the White House.
Former press secretary Sean Spicer, whose stint in the White House was harshly criticized, told television host Piers Morgan that Winfrey could be hamstrung by her lack of experience.
“She doesn’t have the political infrastructure. And we’ve seen this before in our history — where people who have tried to pop in who are not in politics and have had a difficult time adjusting.”
Conservative columnist David Limbaugh said it is fair for his fellow Trump supporters to cite Winfrey's lack of experience despite their backing of the current president.
“I reject that Trump supporters have forfeited their right to cite others’ lack of preparatory experience for presidential office. Apart from the debate over Trump’s preparedness, all extra-political experience is not fungible — Oprah’s (lack of) relevant experience is fair game,” he tweeted.
As the conversation about her presidency became louder, other conservatives, including Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, highlighted that Winfrey's past interactions with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the focus of many of the sexual assault allegations that helped elevate the #MeToo movement, were problematic.
The logical inconsistency of holding Winfrey to a higher standard than some conservatives apply to Trump did not go unnoticed. Some commenters concluded that race and gender could be involved, given that Winfrey is a black woman and Trump is a white man.
But others spent less time highlighting the hypocrisy of some Trump supporters and challenged liberals to be more logical and strategic in how they approach the upcoming election. While many Americans expressed interest in having a president who speaks aggressively against combating sexual violence instead of one accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women, Winfrey has not detailed any significant policy positions indicating how she would possibly govern.
While some assumptions can be made about Winfrey's political leanings given her past endorsement of Obama and some of the progressive issues she has championed, including women's rights and LGBT rights, Winfrey has yet to share any clear policy positions on the topics she would oversee — notably national security, the economy and international trade.
Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman noted this and wrote that while Winfrey has flourished in many of the things she has touched, success in those areas does not guarantee that she would shine in public office. In fact, many of Trump's perceived shortcomings as a president have been ascribed to a lack of experience. Waldman wrote that Oprah would present similar challenges:
“You can’t criticize Trump for having no relevant experience or evident understanding of public policy, then say that the solution for Democrats is just to throw up their hands and find their own celebrity to promote.
“It’s possible Oprah could prove herself worthy of the attention being put on the idea of her running for president. But she certainly hasn’t done it yet, and we should all be extremely skeptical unless and until she shows us why, beyond just being rich and famous, she’d actually make a good president.”