POLITICS
03/19/2014 03:27 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2014

Oprah Claims She Was Unaware Of Dem's Checkered Past, Still Plans To Fundraise For Her

Michael Tran via Getty Images

An Oprah Winfrey spokeswoman said Wednesday that Winfrey would still attend a fundraiser for Lavern Chatman, a friend running for the Democratic nomination in Virginia's 8th Congressional District, and that the media-powerhouse did not know about a 2001 fraud judgement against the candidate.

“Ms. Winfrey is attending to support her friend,” Winfrey spokeswoman Nicole Nichols told The Washington Post of the April 5 fundraiser in Arlington, Va. “Ms. Winfrey was not aware of the charge.”

Chatman, a former head of the Northern Virginia Urban League, is one of 11 Democrats competing for the nomination to succeed retiring Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.).

“Oprah is a good friend and we both share a passion for empowering women and girls for leadership,” Chatman said in a statement Tuesday. “I’m delighted she is coming to town to help with my congressional campaign.”

As Blue Virginia first reported, the judgement against Chatman stemmed from her involvement in a scheme to defraud hundreds of Washington, D.C. nursing home employees of at least $1.4 million in owed wages. Court documents show that she helped an owner of the nursing home management company avoid paying court-ordered damages by hiding his assets.

Winfrey has waded into politics infrequently. She endorsed President Barack Obama in 2007 as he ran in the Democratic presidential primary and hosted a campaign fundraiser for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in 2013.

The Democratic primary on June 10 will likely determine the next representative of Virginia's 8th Congressional District, as Obama won it with 68 percent of the vote in 2012.

CORRECTION: This article originally incorrectly referred to the fraud judgement against Lavern Chatman as a criminal conviction. It was a judgement in a civil lawsuit. We regret the error.

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