For Oprah Winfrey to prove to voters that she can serve as commander in chief, she’ll first have to reconcile her past advancement of anti-war causes with her support for the Iraq War in 2002.
Well, first she’ll have to decide to run for president. Then she’ll want to get some sort of campaign staff.
And then she’ll probably have to clarify whether either of those military-related positions are actually true.
Winfrey’s stirring speech during the Golden Globes award ceremony Sunday night — during which she spoke about discrimination against women in Hollywood and America — has sparked rumors of a possible political campaign in the entertainer’s future.
And, in typical responsible social media fashion, that speculation in turn has sparked widespread dissection of what the one-time talk show host’s policy positions might be, including angry attacks on the actress/producer/media icon for being both too pro-military and against the troops.
Much of the conversation has focused on a series episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show that ran in late 2002 and early 2003. The shows came amid public discussion about the United States role in the Middle East, and the possibility of a war in Iraq.
At the time, Winfrey took heavy criticism for the first show — “Help you decide if you think we should attack Iraq” — being too accepting of administration claims concerning the need for military intervention.
But subsequent episodes in following months earned praise from anti-war activists for questioning the reasoning behind the looming conflict. During one titled “The world speaks out on Iraq,” Winfrey showed clips from various high-profile individuals urging U.S. officials to avoid war.
Winfrey later said the episodes earned her voluminous hate-mail. Time magazine listed the series as one of the top 10 controversies of her long entertainment career.
She also was criticized for going too easy on Bush as a guest of the show in later years, and not better exposing mistakes by his White House in the lead-up to the conflict.
Now, all of those moments have formed the basis of Winfrey’s burgeoning national security strategy, in the same way that her program on “raising sextuplets and twins” could soon be the core of her tax policy positions.
For now, Winfrey’s camp has not issued a public statement on Pentagon acquisition reform, or the annual military pay raise, or whether she is seriously considering a national political run in the next three years.
On Tuesday, during a White House meeting on immigration, President Donald Trump said he didn’t think Winfrey would challenge him in 2020 but added that such a race would be “a lot of fun.” He also added that his family were guests on one of her final talk show episodes, back in 2011.
He did not say what the ratings were for that event.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.