BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Oprah Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president, two of her close friends told CNN Monday.
The two friends, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, talked in the wake of Winfrey’s extraordinary speech at the Golden Globes Sunday night, which spurred chatter about a 2020 run.
Some of Winfrey’s confidants have been privately urging her to run, the sources said.
One of the sources said these conversations date back several months. The person emphasized that Winfrey has not made up her mind about running.
A representative for Winfrey did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Democratic race for president won’t officially begin until after the 2018 midterms, but many potential candidates are already jostling for position and making trips to Iowa.
“President Winfrey” was the talk of the entertainment world after Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. And the “Oprah for president?” possibility was a top story on morning TV.
The touchstone of her speech was the #MeToo movement. But her hopeful message — “A new day is on the horizon” — could have doubled as a campaign rallying cry.
Many liberal-leaning celebrities and viewers certainly heard it that way. And that may have been exactly what Winfrey wanted.
As some political strategists have pointed out in the past year, her fame and wealth could make her a formidable Democratic Party candidate. But insiders have their doubts too: Would Americans really choose a TV star as president twice in a row?
For now, it’s all just talk. But her fans demonstrated a lot of wishful thinking on Twitter and Facebook after her speech.
Although Winfrey has deflected questions about a presidential run in the past, she has also acknowledged that President Trump’s election upended assumptions about how to pursue political office.
After the speech, Winfrey’s longtime partner Stedman Graham was quoted saying a run is certainly a possibility.
“It’s up to the people,” Graham told a Los Angeles Times reporter. “She would absolutely do it.”
Winfrey campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 and endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. During Clinton’s campaign, she discussed the prospect of a female president and said “America, it’s about time that we made that decision.”
She said it would be a “seminal moment for women.” But the moment has yet to happen — which is one of the reasons Sunday’s speech stirred so much attention.
Winfrey has deep pockets, an even deeper well of charisma, and instant name recognition, thanks to decades on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Reese Witherspoon alluded to her friend’s superstar status while introducing her at the Globes: “There’s only one person whose name is a verb, an adjective, and a feeling. And that is Oprah.”
What she lacks is political experience.
In an interview with Winfrey on Bloomberg last March, interviewer David Rubenstein broached the possibility, saying “It’s clear you don’t need government experience to be elected president of the United States.”
She indicated that the same thought had crossed her mind after Trump’s election: “I thought, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh. Oh!'”
Winfrey laughed while the studio audience applauded.
More recently, when her best friend Gayle King brought up the idea on “CBS This Morning,” Winfrey shot it down: “There will be no running for office of any kind for me.”
Right now Winfrey has multiple jobs: She’s the CEO of the cable channel OWN, a “special correspondent” for the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” and an investor in companies like Weight Watchers.
She recently sold part of her stake in OWN but renewed her contract to remain CEO through 2025.
Her role at CBS News would conflict with any serious exploration of a presidential run.
Winfrey’s next role is in Ava DuVernay’s movie “A Wrinkle in Time,” which comes out in April.
The political back-and-forth has already begun. On Sunday night Winfrey’s detractors immediately began circulating an old photo of Winfrey with Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul who has become the symbol of Hollywood rot.
But her fans portrayed her as the perfect anti-Trump candidate — that is, if she’s willing to run. Videos and transcripts of the speech were widely shared on social media on Monday morning.
The Washington Post quoted Meryl Streep saying that Winfrey “launched a rocket” with the speech.
“I want her to run for president,” Streep told The Post. “I don’t think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn’t have a choice.”
Earlier in the evening, Globes host Seth Meyers actually teed up the speculation.
“Oprah,” Meyers said, looking out at her in the audience, “in 2011, I told some jokes about our current president at the White House Correspondents Dinner — jokes about how he was unqualified to be president — and some have said that night convinced him to run. So if that’s true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes!”
The laughs and cheers from the crowd made it clear: Winfrey would have a lot of supporters in the entertainment industry.
Oprah received the annual Cecil B. DeMille award and delivered a memorable acceptance speech during the Golden Globes on Sunday night.
Here is the full transcript:
“Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history:” The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black—and he was being celebrated. I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field: “Amen, amen, amen, amen.”
In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor—it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago. Saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she’s Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.’ Gayle who’s been a friend and Stedman who’s been my rock.
I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.
But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.
Their time is up. And I just hope—I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man—every man who chooses to listen.
In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”