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?

Sep 24, 2009

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.#

16 Comments

  1. So well said, Chuck. Thank you for thinking beyond the cynicism that has taken over our lives. I did not see the show, I never watch Oprah, I have never done. But she has my sincere respect for allowing these topics to be exposed and openly discussed, at the risk of having malicious and idiots criticize her motives. What is it with America? The double standard of our society is what has us in deep problems. On the one hand, we love to be THE country to mirror, we export moral, economic and social rules but on the other hand, our problems must be made tabloid material and see them only as tabloid material, or hide them in the closet. Grow up, America!

  2. The idea that it’s irrelevant that Phillips is lying because it might save an incest victim is ridiculous.
    Did you folks sleep through the repressed memory movement in the early ’90s? When hundreds of people, encouraged by therapists with threadbare credentials, accused parents and loved ones of incest based on memories their brains suppressed but which came out during therapy? Funny we don’t hear about this poppycock syndrome anymore, mainly because it was soundly discredited by researchers. But hey, all those ruined lives and reputations were worth it because the therapists, like Oprah, had noble goals.
    The road to Hell isn’t paved with asphalt.

  3. “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.”
    This is a well-meaning but frankly ridiculous statement. No it’s NOT true that helping one hypothetical person justifies subjecting millions of viewers to a this tawdry promotional tour for a sensational “tell-all” book.
    First of all, who in the audience has a similar experience .. rape then “consensual” sex with a rock star parent?
    Secondly, Ms. Phillips is promoting a bizarre mixed message: “Don’t hate my dad. He was sick. It’s okay to still love his music,” she told Meredith Viera on TODAY. In other words “Buy my book and keep Daddy’s music royalties coming.”
    Even if Ms. Phillips is sincere, this is celebrity exploitation plain and simple. It should not be confused with ordinary women sharing a painful story with the intent of helping others.

  4. Come on, Oprah has done trash for 23 years. She just mixes it in with her positive shows and does trash in such a way that she makes it seem like she’s doing America a favor to put such stuff on the screen. Bottom line is her ratings have been cut in half over the past decades and she needs the eyeballs like everyone else. She is guilty of exploiting people for her own gain–why viewers don’t see through it shows how dumb some people are to buying into an on screen image of do-gooder that really masks her ultimate goals. Phillips gained too–lots of publicity for her book. So why would you be shocked? It’s normal TV.

  5. Interested Reader is right. Oprah has tried to “re-invent” herself many times, with mixed success, but at its heart the show is what it always has been, a typical – occasionally insightful; mostly exploitative — talk show, Hey – whatever works. It’s a business, folks!

  6. All shows, from Oprah to Springer, all have their own agenda, so it’s neither here nor there.
    When I heard about this confession, I thought, hmm, could be true as face it, if you want attention, THIS is not how to do it. This kind of thing will follow her the rest of her life, not to mention the infighting among family members will be intense.
    The only good that comes out of stuff like that is that ‘normal’ people will go ‘I’m not alone’ and will seek help.
    But nothing out of Hollywood surprises me anymore, so call me a big-time cynic.

  7. Mackenzie hoped to be didactic
    When telling her story climactic;
    Her Papa, she said,
    Took his Phillips head
    And screwed her with no prophylactic.
    News Short n’ Sweet by JFD8
    http://twitter.com/JFD8

  8. Oh boo hoo.
    I wish Mackenzie well and Goddess’ help to heal; I sincerely pray the same for any individual that has to find themselves after any type of abuse, but blech.
    Suffering is some child restavik in Haiti, forced child soldier in Liberia, exploited girl in Asia, poor baby worker in India etc. …not these raggedy whiney complaining white chicks in America.
    This thing of summoning up concern for trick ass silly white females that had money and every opportunity this world allows – who then want sympathy after playing themselves and becoming druggies, jump offs, slores, porn hoes or go throwing up or kissing a chick to entertain guys on Girls Gone Wild?
    Ain’t happening over here.
    Grow up white girls. People are growing tired of your neverending ‘damsel in distress’ plays for being on blast b/c you didn’t get enough attention from daddy or whatever.

  9. Y shouldnt have O given airtime to McK? If she didnt, ABC GMA/Diane Sawyer or NBC today show would have ( & they later did) or CBS early show.
    O wants ratings & McK wants ppl 2 buy her book. I see no problem.
    Y didnt u have a problem w last week Whitney Houston telling O & the world how to roll a joint?

  10. SHAME ON OPRAH FOR GIVING THIS SICK, DEMENTED FEMALE “CELEB-U-KID” A FORMAT TO SPEW POISON. IS NOTHING SACRED (anymore) OPRAH in your reach for ratings>?
    IF this drugged out spoiled HOLLYWOOD BRAT (really) had SEX w/her own father FOR 10-YEARS -SHE should be horse-whipped.
    INSTEAD:
    OPRAH SPENDS A WEEK HELPING THIS BRAT RUIN A BELOVED MUSICIAN’S LEGACY.
    WHAT HAS THIS BRAT GIVEN US (to match her father’s LEGACY) … A ROADMAP on HOW NOT TO raise a child.
    FOR HER TO TAKE A WEEK before coming up w/the EXCUSE: I DIDN’T TELL B-4 NOW … “because MY SON WASN’T OLD ENOUGH” … more B. S.
    SHE wants a pass for having sex (purportedly) w/her DAD for a DECADE STARTING when SHE was 19.
    HER SON IS NOW ONLY 22. STILL A CHILD … which makes HER LATEST EXCUSE so much MORE crap.
    THIS ENTIRE “affair” is sick, twisted and DEMENTED. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR (formerly) HIGH STANDARDS, OPRAH? YOUR AFRICAN school has been a cesspool of bad acts. NOW, you’re permitting character ASSASSINATION of a DEAD LEGEND!
    SHAME on you, Oprah.

  11. well i think she only give m phillips air time because ,her daD WAS I WELL KNOWN SINGER AND HAD MONEY AND IT WAS ACHANCE TOO ONCE AGAIN SHOW UP THE WHITE PEOPLE I DONT WATCH HER SHOW ANY MORE BECAUSE ITS ALL ABOUT HER HER AND SHE THINKS SHES SUPERIOR TO ALL COLORES OF PEOPLE BECAUSE SHES RICH WELL MONEY CANT BY U LOVE FAMILY AND CHILDREN AND I NOTE SHE DOES ALOT OF CHARITIES BUT MOST OF THEM ARE IN AFRICA WHEN THERES ALOT OF BLACK CHILDREN WHO NEED HELP FOR SOME OF THE SAME REASONS ,HUNGER SEX ABUSE NO HOMES

  12. Oprah isn’t on PBS. She does everything for ratings. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s her job and she’s the undisputed king.

  13. It was a ploy for Oprah to get her sagging numbers back up. It was freedom, finally, for Phillips to get that yoke from around her neck after years of acting out & severe drug abuse.
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  14. post to my blog?

  15. agree pretty much with what you’re saying here, not sure about the poster above me though.

  16. great post. thank you !

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