Oprah Unleashed in Post-Election Show
By Ed O'Keefe
CHICAGO -- "Today the election is over and I'm unleashed!"
So said Oprah Winfrey as she launched a post-election discussion on her program, the first such televised political conversation she's moderated since announcing her personal support for Barack Obama last year. The popular talk show host vowed to keep quiet on her show, partially to avoid alienating viewers who did not support the senator's candidacy.
Winfrey bounded on stage at the start of the program waving an American flag and wearing a red button-down sweater and white T-shirt emblazoned with the words, "Hope Won." Almost immediately, she acknowledged that some in her loyal audience might be disappointed with the outcome of the election.
"Trust me, I know," she said. "If it had turned out differently, we'd be doing the show today from Northwestern Hospital with a drip," she said to laughs.
Winfrey assembled what she called "my own political panel," including CNN commentator and White House veteran David Gergen, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), feminist Gloria Steinem, Afro-American studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and columnist Peggy Noonan. The quintet joined Winfrey via satellite.
"I must tell you, last night was one of the most moving moments in my life," Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, told Winfrey. "I tried to not cry, but I did shed some tears. At one point, when they called the state of Pennsylvania, I knew that Barack Obama was going to win. I had an out of body experience. I jumped so high -- I was at Ebeneezer Baptist Church -- I just embarrassed myself."
"It reminded me of South Africa, when people voted for the first time for Nelson Mandela," Lewis said of the long lines seen nationwide at polling places.
Winfrey singled out Gergen for what she called balanced and calm analysis over the course of the campaign.
"It was a brilliant campaign," Gergen said of Obama's operation. "I think it will go down as the best run campaign in modern times. It also reflected the younger generation, and Barack Obama understanding technology."
"It is the culmination of a century and a half campaign against racism in America,"
said Gates, who called Election Night "the great night of my life." He said he would tell his students at Harvard University today "God Bless America and 'Yes We Did It.'"
Steinem noted that Obama and McCain had both spoken during the campaign about male responsibility for raising children.
Asked by Winfrey about the impact of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the contest, Steinem said: "I thought she was a temporary benefit because she got lots of attention. Everyone was curious about her. As more and more of the content of her policies and her action and her lack of experience was revealed, she became a liability."
"I feel bad about that, because I don't want to see a woman held up for ridicule as she has been," she added.
"John McCain had a lot to do with this campaign and he is a great American, an authentically great one," Noonan said of the Republican candidate. "This is a man who suffered for five years in a prisoner of war camp. And this is a man who's given his life to the rough to and fro of American politics."
Web Politics Editor
November 5, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
Categories: Media Notes
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