To publicly question or challenge a mother about her child's paternity is a blow to a woman's dignity.
Yet, this is what the writer Kitty Kelley did when she revealed--or rehashed--in her definitive book on Oprah Winfrey.
Kelley is a studious writer, a thorough researcher, and a hands-on interviewer. However, in her newest book, Oprah: A Biography, she oversteps. I was absolutely outraged to read that Kelley relied on a family member's word--hearsay--that Vernon Winfrey was not Oprah's real father.
Kelley also writes that this relative revealed who Oprah's 'real' father is. How would they really know?
And I think the question of paternity is insulting to Ms. Vernita Lee, Oprah's mom. Are we really to take Kelley's words over Vernita Lee?
Kelley claims she did 850 interviews and went to the little southern town, Kosciusko, Mississippi, where Oprah was born, and she talked to Aunt Katharine who 'revealed' family secrets. It must be pretty hurtful to have relatives who will sell you out and even lie to make a buck or to see their names in writing.
Think about that: After a person is middle-aged how do you go out and discover parents?
She suggests that Oprah's father, Vernon, is not her real biological dad.
I can just envision Miss Kitty Kelly snooping around in the small, southern town of Kosciusko, Miss., seeking black folks to recall rumors of Vernita's past liaisons. It doesn't work. I called Ms. Lee and she was not pleased. We gave her an opportunity to respond and she did, thus the exclusive story.
Vernita Lee tells us that not only is Mr. Norh Robinson, an 84-year-old vet, not Oprah's dad, but the she doesn't even know him. She thinks he is trying to get money from her daughter.
There's an old saying for such scenarios: Momma, baby; poppa, maybe?
But this is what I know for sure: Maybe Kitty Kelley should mind her own business.
There ought to be rule, laws to govern what you say and write, even about the rich and famous. It's not fair to pass parenthood falsely. It's cruel to lie and it is the ultimate insult to a woman. The rich and famous have privacy rights, too.
That may be something Kitty Kelley should remember.
Oprah and her mother are not deserving of the degradation.