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Letterman, Whoopi, and What Oprah Really Wants

12/02/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Today my plan was to submit a post, already written, that is positive and hopeful, about one of the few true heroes in the fight against sexual abuse. But then I got sidetracked. It started late last night when I was set to do a national radio interview. It had been postponed once already so I was relieved when the producer put me on hold and said he would get me on with the host right away. After the commercial break, the producer came back and said he was really sorry to do this to me again but they had just come out of a spot on the "David Letterman thing" and the host didn't feel that it was appropriate to follow that with a discussion about incest as written about in my piece on Huffington Post, "Oprah, Mackenzie and the Fam". And besides, they had run over and most of my time had already been eaten up. I assume he was referring to David Letterman's clever monologue style comic delivery about the extortion plot that forced him to publicly disclose sexual relationships with women on his staff. Consenting women who slept with their famous boss could not be followed by an incest story? Huh?

Then I decided to look further into the "rape-rape" Whoopi thing, even though other writers had already thoroughly covered the inappropriateness of her comment using the same points I would have made. Once again I was amazed at how the media goes for the sensational sound bite, in this case being the "it wasn't rape-rape" blurb which she later attempted to explain away by saying she was referring to the fact that Roman Polanski pled guilty to a lesser charge of having sex with the 13-year-old minor. But it was another comment of Whoopi's that got me going. "He did not rape her because she was aware, and the family apparently was aware....I don't know if it was consensual..." I'm going to resist the temptation to get into all the things wrong with that comment, trust you can get them all by yourself, and just say, huh?

Speaking of heroes in the fight against sexual abuse, Oprah has always been one of mine. By disclosing her own abuse and using her show as a forum to educate about the complex issues surrounding this difficult topic, she started a national conversation at a time years ago when no one else was talking about it publicly. It was considered a safe place to discuss such sensitive topics. I wrote earlier this week about how her surprisingly cool treatment of Mackenzie Phillips was not nearly as sympathetic as what Whitney Houston was afforded in a recent interview. (OK, I called it a marshmallow interview and lots of people agreed with me.) In response, someone told me that Oprah had offered a million dollars to Jaycee Dugard, the young woman who was kidnapped and held hostage in a back yard for 18 years, to come on her show.

So I set off to investigate. Finding no conclusive evidence that the show actually offered Ms. Dugard the money, I did find a piece of video from The Insider where Oprah was asked if she had spoken to Jaycee. She answered no but said exactly six times in less than a minute and a half how much she wants that interview. She said like everyone else in the business, she has "her people" on it, claiming it was the first time she had ever gone to one of her own producers to make sure they were working a story. Sitting back in her chair with her "I'm used to getting what I want" smile, she declared her intentions, over and over again. She never spoke of Ms. Dugard by name, never referred to her tragic story, never expressed concern over how difficult it would be for the woman to tell her story publicly and relive the nightmare of her experience. When asked what questions she would have for Jaycee, Oprah said she never thinks about that in advance, maybe only the night before the interview because she is a "feeling" person and likes to go with whatever happens. That, she said, is why the Whitney interview was so "great". Huh?

At least I never run out of things to write about.

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