July 19th, 2007
11:42 AM ET
11 years ago

Oprah takes out big guns for Obama

Watch CNN’s Mary Snow report on Oprah’s swanky campaign bash.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Her name has been known to skyrocket a novel to the top of the bestseller list, but can Oprah Winfrey do the same with a presidential candidate?

The popular talk show host, who first said she would support Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid in September on CNN’s Larry King Live, plans to host a $2,300 per-person fundraising event for the Illinois Democrat in her Montecito, California home next September.

In an e-mail sent out Tuesday, the event is being billed "the most exciting Barack Obama event of the year anywhere,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, those celebrities who pledge to raise $25,000 for the senator will be invited to a special VIP reception and a $50,000 pledge will win a dinner with Oprah and the candidate.

Though Winfrey’s highly-anticipated soirée is certain to produce an avalanche of campaign-cash for Obama, it remains to be seen whether her endorsement alone will translate into votes at the polls.

While Oprah began endorsing novels long ago, the TV host has never lent her support behind a presidential candidate until now.

Last May, Oprah told Larry King she chose to support a candidate for the first time this cycle because she knows Obama “personally,” and knows “what he stands for.”

"I think that what he stands for, what he has proven that he can stand for, what he has shown, was worth me going out on a limb for - and I haven't done it in the past because I haven't felt that anybody — I didn't know anybody well enough to be able to say, I believe in this person," Oprah said.

In the same interview, Oprah said her endorsement of Obama does not suggest she is against the other Democratic front-runner for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

"I think I've said this before and it's true, because I am for Barack does not mean I am against Hillary or anybody else. So the fact that I would endorse Barack Obama and the fact that I would support Barack Obama, I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton,” she said.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (308 Responses)
  1. Cassie, Minneapolis, MN

    Oprah backing Obama? Oh please! I've really gotten sick and tired of celebrities opting to take sides in politics. They're entertainers. We 'pay' them to entertain us. Not to tell us who we should vote for in the next election!

    July 18, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Whatev!, RTP, North Carolina

    You guys are not serious ( previous comments ) So yet again this becomes a racial issue for you. So do you mean to say, all "white endorsers"(or any other race for that matter)in the past, chose to support candidates soleley due to their race?...... I'm sorry...If I'm not mistaken, I've only ever seen a white man in office, so yes there's definitely a trend here....get over yourselves and let Oprah support whomever she so chooses.

    July 18, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Dan, Chicago Illinois

    Oprah, whether you love her or hate her (and I happen to fall into the latter group) has every right to spend her money in any way that she wants. To me, I'm not going to support Obama just because Oprah does, I'm going to support him because of who he is and what he's done (and what he's not done, like vote for the Iraq War, like Clinton did). And for all of you people crying that Obama doesn't have the experience. Two things. First. do we really WANT the experience/baggage that comes with serving as a life-long senator and/or someone whose been hob-knobbing with all the special interests for their entire career? Second, and I hate to bring this up, but...Obama has a helluva lot more experience than the current govornor of California, who was re-elected by its voters and by most accounts is doing a pretty good job, especially his non-partisian approach to governing. What we need right now, is an outsider.

    July 18, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. JT - Sioux Falls, SD

    Is it me or is there a coincidence that they're both of African decent? I don't mean to sound racist, but won't this cause some of Obama's white supporters to alientate him? Besides, she has a background in journalism. She should have an unbiased oppinion of the candidates.

    July 18, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. Amanda, Chicago, IL

    Yeah for Obama...keep pushing for him to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 18, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. PP

    To the person in Rhode Island who speaks badly about Oprah's support of poor people in Africa.....why does it have to be the multimillionaires who provide for the needy in the US? Why not regular citizens like the one complaining? One may not have the money but they may have the time and desire to volunteer to help. The poor are all around us and most of us walk by them without regard. What really sad is that our society has no appetite to deal with these problems, so we are all complicit in not responding to the poor in our country. We pride ourselves in being a rich country but we don't have the desire to care for all Americans, especially those in need. We think that the gov't or public institutions should take care of the poor. So, we leave the poor to fend for themselves. Oprah does alot of good with her wealth. And it's sad to see other people criticize that when many people don't even lift a finger and yet feel compelled to criticize others who are helping but not in the manner that other folks would want.

    July 18, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. James K Wayne, NJ

    Ah, the power of the O. Never underestimate the power and influence of the Oprah; her book club is just one example of that. A fund raiser, although public, is not a national event, as would be an endorsement on her show. If, and this is a big if, that happens, that’s HUGE! Tens of millions of voting women would be influenced. Among that demographic, the O has far more influence than the Pope. She was instrumental in electing a mayor in Newark, New Jersey a few years back.

    I would like to see the media, because Oprah (and Harpo) is a media driven business, inquire, and in fact challenge her as to her endorsement. Yes, she should be challenged publicly because of her enormous media power. With great power and influence comes responsibility, and I’m sure she’d be willing to speak publicly.

    July 18, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. Devi Prasad

    Oprah's endorsement counts a LOT

    Oprah is the modern day cleric and this is nothing but a fatwa from the high priestess herself. A lot of academic studies have been carried out about how her opinion has changed presidential and celebrity fortunes in the past.

    What would be cool if she endorsed Hillary Clinton too and let the best person win !! It will be a shame if Obama has an easy race because of Oprah !!

    July 18, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. MaryA. Smith, Myrtle Creek ,Oregon

    I have not voted since Kennedy,B.Obama is the first since that time I have felt is a real person,speaking from his heart and his gut, not just a script reader, I believe he truly wants to help our country! He has my vote! America! OPEN YOUR EYES & EARS. 'OBAMA O8' I'm a 68 yr. old woman. So not only the young are for him.

    July 18, 2007 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Danby, Eddystone, Pa

    What!!??? Oprah reads a book and we should read it?? Oprah has her favorite things and we should run out and give them as gifts?? Now she supports a presidential candidate and we should vote for him??? Oprah, please! Get over yourself.

    July 18, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Jeremy, jacksonville FL

    Oprah has the domestic and international power to put Obama on top of the Democratic Ticket and in the White House. She controls the New York Times Best-Sellers list, Hollywood, and is a media mogul. The most watched television program in the middle east is Oprah. Hillary Clinton emailed Oprah to be her running mate and Oprah turned her down, saying that she is not one to play second best. Anytime Oprah endorses a MAN for anything over a Women its going to big News. Women do not like Hillary Clinton. Oprah is going to give Obama the female vote. So David Geffen, Oprah, Wynn Casino heirs, george clooney, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Anniston, halle Barry, Eddie Murphy, Charles Barkley and most 18-24 year olds support Barack Obama. He has alot of heavy weights in his corner. With all this media power, it's going to be very hard to discount Obama. Hillary has alot of enemies and rightfully So. Nobody likes a liar. And an unapologetic liar is disliked even more.

    International influence cannot be discounted. If the International Community yeilds to Obama, his foreign policy capabilities will shine. Kenya is a start. Oh yeah Indonesia, also.

    Go Obama

    July 18, 2007 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  12. Barney, Las Vegas

    I think it is great that Oprah is stepping up and supporting Barack. If I had Oprah's money and power I would do the same.

    p.s. There's a typo on the word "front-runner" – second to last paragraph.

    July 18, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. Susan Greenwalt, Battle Creek MI

    As a 68-yr + white professional female, I support Barack Obama because of his views in Audacity, his commitment to return to his Chicago constituency, his down-to-earth approach, and the fact he seems to be an independent thinker w/o a large number of political hacks telling him what to do. He appears NOT to say what everyone expects, and to avoid canned political rhetoric. Hilary is Old News and Old politics, and even though I fall in her demographics, I would not support her. Oprah has a right to put her money where her mouth is – she built her show and her reputation and if it hellps him, why not? That whole "only because he's African-American" thing is nuts – she can't possibly be that shallow and that successful at one time.

    July 18, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Kyle, Champaign IL

    Dear God,

    Please smite us Americans for being stupid.

    A lot of these comments just go to show how uneducated some Americans still are. Go to school please. Then you will decide to vote democrat like the rest of the smart folk.

    THANKS!

    July 18, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. SR, Sierra Madre, California

    It is time to real, conservative America. Holding back progress is a miserable failure. The world is constantly changing. To embrace a stagnant mindset is only harming yourselves and the children of our future.

    July 18, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    I don't understand the appeal of Oprah in the first place, so I certainly don't care who she endorses.

    July 18, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Benjamin- Marietta, Georgia

    The excitement and money surrounding Obama these days is incredible. I don't see anything stopping this trend for him. I believe Barack will make a good president because he is squarley focused on middle-class American family values and aspirations. It is also about time we elect a president that understands the value of good scientific research (stem cells properly and ethically harvested), and doesn't waste our money on needless wars.

    July 18, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Seattle, Wa

    If America wasn't in such a dire need of change - i'll bet Oprah wouldn't take such a huge roll in supporting Obama; however, we Americans can't ignore the fact that we need a fresh change and a new direction. Good for Oprah for leveraging her status and doing it for the sole purpose of our improving our future. And for those who feel this is a racial issue, get over yourselves, this goes way beyond the color of skin. Go Oprah!

    July 18, 2007 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Salaam, Denver CO

    My God! Talk about haters... Well Oprah, now you see what's behind those hypocritical smiles when you step outside of the predefined box this society has for you. I hope your paying attention.

    July 18, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Elaine Roberts, Nashville, TN

    I think that Barack Obama is the most promising candidate I've seen in years. I can hardly wait until Election day! I agree with Oprah that I'm not against anyone actually...I'm just very much FOR this man. Thank you for your time.

    July 18, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. Allan Toh, Honolulu, Hawaii

    If Oprah wanted to really make a difference and a genuine statement about race and what it should be about, she should have endorsed Hillary or someone else not black. All she's really done is to perpetuate the status quo and the percepttion – It is really all about race forever with blacks. And many whites. And everyone else. She is Oprah. She could have really made a statement to bring us forward, albeit a tiny step, but forward progress. Instead, the perception is that Obama is her pick because when it comes right down to it, race does matter, even to someone as "sophisticated and progressive" as Oprah. For all her money and influence, she is still, at best, just another rich person using her money and power to influence people. I'm not convinced. Hillary is my pick.

    July 18, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. David, Tulsa OK

    Between the lack of any fresh ideas or exciting candidates on the Republican side, and the media/celebrity enabling of the Democrat front-runners, it seems we're headed for a Democrat in the White House.

    If that proves to be the case, I almost hope Obama gets in - between his lightweight status and and fact that he would be pinned-in by every liberal/minority group in the world trying to get a piece of him, he'd be the one to do far less damage than Clinton or Edwards.

    July 18, 2007 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. Matt, Oxford, OH

    It is a little scary to read some of the comments on this wall. "I'm not a racist, but that black person is supporting the other black person because they're black." Correction; you are a racist. Nevermind the fact that they're both from Chicago, liberal, and have many other similarities (besides being black). Even if Oprah does support Obama because he is black, who cares? Are you affraid that he's going to try to enslave white people if he wins? Before you go and assemble a lynch mob try to learn something about Obama's positions and try to learn something about yourself (i.e. why does it really upset you that two amazing black people have risen to positions of prominence in our society). And for the record, Im not defending Oprah and Obama because I'm black. In fact I am white and am embarassed for those of you who have made these rediculous posts.

    July 18, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. David Bartholomew, Falmouth, Maine

    Oprah should not use her celebrity to endorse a candidate. Oprah is an entertainer and should not use her power as a celebrity to get people to vote for one particular candidate. Many of the people who are her fans will vote for Obama simply because their idol has said they should. People listen to me, don't drink the cool-aid; be an individual and do what you think is right not what your Oprah God says you should do. Celebrities should only use their power to get people involved in the process, but not for one particular candidate. Oprah, use your power to get people to vote and participate.

    July 18, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. Matt, Austin, Texas

    You people are racists. "She's black. Obama's black. THAT MUST BE WHY SHE LIKES HIM!!!" My God, what is the matter with you people?

    Oprah is an American citizen. In every other post that has been about a celebrity endorsing a candidate, everyone has commented that American citizens had better not be swayed to vote a certain way just because some other person is endorsing that candidate; we all hope that citizens look at more than just who else supports a candidate when deciding to vote. Now you all turn around and make this one-dimensional argument because all you can see is this one aspect of both the celebrity and the politician. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

    I'm pretty sure that Oprah has taken a multi-dimensional approach in deciding to endorse Obama than this closed-minded approach you all have taken to judge the relationship between Oprah and Obama. Open your minds and stop being so shallow.

    July 18, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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