Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Counting the Cost: Celebrity Endorsements

This week, the program's host shares her thoughts on Oprah's endorsement of Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama. Michel Martin explains the consequences of influential Americans, like Oprah, getting involved in politics.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Every now and again, when I have something on my mind, I like to talk about it.

And today, I want to talk about the people who are jumping all over Oprah Winfrey because of her decision to campaign for presidential candidate Barack Obama. Now, I know Oprah is a big girl and she can take care of herself but when you see or hear what some people are saying about this, you'll understand why I want to speak about it.

Can I just tell you, I am not an Oprah acolyte? I'm not a big fan of daytime television in general because I'm usually at work when it's on, except when I was on maternity leave and I was too tired to bother. I love her come from nothing American success story, her magazine is awesome, but I am not a person who follows her every twist and turn. I don't care where she goes on vacation, I do not care how much she weighs, and to be honest with you, I don't really care who she supports for president, except for the fact that she has chosen to do something that most Americans have not, which is to get involved in a civic life of her country.

This is a country in which half or more eligible voters typically don't show up at the polls in any given election, even though every single night on the news, they're treated to images of people around the world who are risking their lives for that very privilege. This is a country where people routinely complain about big money taking over politics and then they refuse to sign a petition or put up a sign to support the candidates they do like. And this is also a country that loves to devour every crumb about celebrities wasting their time, money and privilege doing any and every stupid thing they can think of: drive drunk, show their panties or none, drive with their kids in their laps, whatever. And that's all fine.

But don't let Oprah go and gasp. Take the election seriously and then, oh my goodness, we have problems. If you don't believe me, here is a sample from Oprah's own message board: From someone who describes herself as an Oprah fan, I've been extremely disappointed with her recent touring with Barack Obama. It's a manipulation and an abuse of her power and influence on the American culture. Here's another one. Would Oprah be on the campaign trail if Mr. Obama were a typical thinking middle-class American regardless of color? I don't think so.

Oh, here's one more: I cannot believe that woman all over the country are not up in arms over Oprah's backing of Obama. For the first time in history, we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the White House and Oprah backs the black man. She's choosing her race over her gender, hypocrisy at its finest.

I think you catch the drift. Oprah should keep her mouth shut because she's too important. Or she should keep her mouth shut because she should only say things that these people agree with. To be sure, there are people posting who support Ms. Winfrey's right to support whoever she wants and who are calling out all the cheap shot artists spreading lies. Like that Obama is a radical Muslim or whatever. And there is a backhanded complement in there somewhere. It's a measure of Winfrey's success as a mainstream crossover figure that so many people seem so shocked that she would support a candidate whom they might not have chosen.

But it is surely a measure of the racism that still exists in this country that so many people assume Winfrey is supporting Obama because he and she are both black. Oh, cannot give her credit for having weigh all her options and that hold the presses, she might just think Obama is the best candidate. Oprah is so often held up as an example of how far this country has come, and it's true. But the rest of the sorry business shows just how far we have to go.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues