Chuck Ross

Oh Oprah: What Do We Do When People We Like Say Crazy, Kooky Things? Such as Your Remarks About O.J. Simpson

Jun 16, 2011

It’s rare that, as a reporter, I cringe when a top executive or major talent says something at a public event I’m covering.

But that’s what happened yesterday (Thursday, June 16, 2011) when I was covering Oprah Winfrey being interviewed by Paula Zahn at the NCTA Cable Show in Chicago.

In case you missed it, Oprah said, “I have a dream of O.J. Simpson confessing to me. And I will make that happen. I want the interview on the condition that you are ready, Mr. Simpson.”

Zahn then commented to Oprah that she sets some lofty goals for herself. To which Oprah replied, “You know, I don’t even think that that’s that lofty. Here’s why I don’t think that’s that lofty. The other day I was cleaning out drawers, preparing for the move West, and I ran across a little baby picture of myself. And I hadn’t seen that picture of myself in a long time. Because as you know, I grew up as a poor Negro child, so we only had six photographs. (laughter in the audience)

“Now, I have at my house a make-up room where, when I first started in the business I started doing covers for magazines—I actually stopped doing that in 1995. I’ve walked through there a thousand times and have not paid any attention to those covers on the walls. I happened to be walking [through there] right after I had seen that baby picture—literally—and I had a moment. And the moment was ‘how did that happen? I’m sitting on a wooden porch in a shotgun house in Mississippi, and how did that happen that that baby girl ends up in this life?’ So I think the fact that that baby girl, from a shotgun house in Mississippi, can end up with the OWN network, makes O.J. Simpson possible.”

The crowd at the cable show then broke into thunderous applause.

I thought to myself, well, there’s the lead for the news story I need to write about this Oprah interview.

I also thought to myself, “Oh, Oprah. You clearly believe this, and who among us would bet against you with your track record, but are you next going to be advising Harold Camping on when the world will end?”

I guess Oprah imagines the buildup to the moment when she gets O.J. to tearfully admit that he brutally killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and then ask for forgiveness. Oprah will tear up, as will her live audience and millions watching at home. Those murders, by the way, happened 17 years ago this past Sunday, June 12.

For Oprah to think that Simpson would confess to her is screwy. Kooky. I just don’t think Simpson would actually confess. Yes, he participated in the “If I Did It” book in which he (and a ghost writer) told how, hypothetically, he would have done the double murders, but I just don’t see him confessing to actually doing them at this point in his life. Sorry, Oprah, it ain’t gonna happen.

The fact that she’d even share with us her fantasy that this might actually occur reminds me of something the late writer Jerzy Kosinski once said.

He claimed that he and his wife were supposed to be at the house of actress Sharon Tate the night the pregnant Tate and three friends were viciously stabbed to death by the Charles Manson gang. Kosinski and his wife had either missed the plane or the plane had been canceled or delayed, I don’t recall. In any event, they were not there that night. But the interesting point about this story is what Kosinski thought would have happened if he had been there that night. He said he thought he would have been able to talk the killers out of killing everyone.

Another instance of just plain kooky thinking.

Oprah, you’re an incredibly talented, hard-working person. That talent and hard work, primarily, is what allowed that little baby girl to become the great success she has become. And I’m sure you had a few breaks and some luck along the way. And, I know that you believe God is looking out for you as well.

But none of that is going to get O.J. Simpson to confess to you. It’s not only a “lofty” goal, it’s not a rational one.

It defies reason and logic.

Why, it would be as if a congressman, in this day and age, would send unsolicited tweets to women containing pictures of his manhood—in various stages of dress and undress—then lie about sending them, then confessing that he did send them, but insisting he wouldn’t resign, only to end up resigning soon thereafter.

Patently absurd.#


  1. If we did not have any illogical, unreasonable, absolutely absurd goals, sir, the electricity, winning world war II, or even inventing the iphone would have NEVER been possible.
    Yes to absurd! May you do more absurd things yourself and enjoy them all!

  2. Chuck, Thanks for this dose of sanity in the face of showbiz nuttiness. Oprah’s rhetorical excess was evident in your original article, too.
    While in some ways it’s refreshing for a celebrity to attribute success to a higher power, Oprah increasingly refers to The Lord’s will as her business plan. I’m guessing this puts a different fear of God into David Zaslav and others responsible for delivering an earthly audience to OWN.
    Besides, as a total professional, Oprah knows very well how much her successes are due to a very different TV landscape, brilliant dealmaking by Roger and Michael King, and especially decades of very hard work by Oprah and her staff.

  3. I think someone smart and seasoned does this when they don’t want you to focus on the failure at hand. The headline thus becomes about “Simpson” vs. the failure of OWN to even match the dismal Discovery Health’s channels ratings YTY…the network OWN replaced.
    If you check the headlines, most editors fell for the ploy.
    Thanks Chuck for a great angle here.

  4. I just stumbled onto your page as I too wrote a short about this interview.
    I think the whole “Oprah” craze defies logic which makes an interview with OJ probable. Oprah hasn’t been on top of her game nor had to work that hard in the last 10 years, but still has been able to get top dollar and ratings.
    Watching the behind the scenes of the 25th show, she sits like a queen and her royal servants do everything. She’s got no home life to balance, so she’s basically just been coasting and is now more successful then ever – defining logic. So the fact that interviewing OJ defies logic, makes it all that much more possible for her to get a confession….if there is one. 🙂

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