The New Yorker:
In 1987, Debra Di Maio, the executive producer of Oprah Winfrey’s newly nationally syndicated daytime talk show, went to Forsyth County, Georgia, to scout locations for an episode about local racism and civil rights. On “Making Oprah,” an excellent three-episode podcast from WBEZ Chicago, Di Maio tells the host, Jenn White, that a man called her hotel room and said, “This is the Klan, and we’re going to kill you.” Di Maio hung up, pushed furniture against the door, and “just proceeded,” she tells White. They had a show to do.
“So no fear?” White says.
No, Di Maio says. “I mean, Oprah would preach on a daily basis, ‘There are only two emotions: love or fear.’ And we weren’t feeling the fear.”
The spirit of that mantra was in evidence throughout much of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which, at its height, had forty million viewers in the U.S. alone, and in Oprah’s electrifying speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday, when she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award and spurred immediate talk of a Presidential run. After the Presidential chatter, there was a backlash and a feisty, reasonable debate: Do we want another cult-of-personality, TV-famous President? Would Oprah be good at managing foreign policy? Maybe not, but it was hard to deny, when listening to her talk about a culture “broken by brutally powerful men” and say, stirringly, “Their time is up!,” that we got that old Obama feeling—joyous inspiration and something like relief, gratitude. The speech briefly made some members of an anxious nation feel love instead of fear.
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