Open Mic

Some of You are Thinking it, So We'll Say it: What's up With Oprah, of All People, Giving Airtime to MacKenzie Phillips Saying She Had Incest With Her Dad? Is it a Ratings Ploy?

Chuck Ross Posted September 24, 2009 at 5:35 AM

Tags: incest, mackenzie phillips, oprah, ratings

Being journalists, people whisper things to us that they might not otherwise say out loud.

In the last 24-hours those whisperings to us have become a loud roar: Should Oprah, perhaps the most well-respected and influential person on TV today, be giving significant airtime to the most uncomfortable, squirm in your chair—and yes, many say, disgusting—story of this or any year—Mackenzie Phillips’ claim of being raped by her father and having an ongoing incestuous relationship with him.

The most cynical amongst us will say that all Oprah’s doing is a ratings play.

Indeed, in Michelle Kung’s Wall St. Journal’s Speakeasy blog she writes about Oprah’s show so far this year—including the Phillips’ interview: “Ratings decline? What ratings decline? Though average viewership for Oprah Winfrey’s talk show dipped below 7 million last season — according to Nielsen, one July rerun had its lowest rating since the show’s 1985 debut—the talk show matriarch has unleashed a torrent of not just A-list stars, but wounded celebrities with sordid tales, seeking redemption. O-loids, if you will. The results so far have been record breaking.”

But such cynicism is a disservice to Oprah. Truth be told, Oprah is no stranger to tabloid fare, as any regular Oprah-watcher will tell you.

From this couch-potato’s viewpoint, however, Oprah’s intent has never been tabloid for tabloids sake. Her show isn’t the Springer show. Oprah’s has always had a more serious intent.

Like most of us, I have no way of knowing if Phillips is telling the truth. A cynic would say she’s made it up to sell books.

But what is true, as you know and I know and Oprah knows, is that there are indeed victims of incest out there. Just as we all know that there are victims of domestic violence and other horrible behavior that most of us don’t usually want to talk about.

And if seeing Phillips talking about incest on Oprah allows just one victim of incest to get out of that situation, it’s worth the discomfort to the rest of us.#