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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 16, 2018

Oprah's comments about race in 2013 BBC interview distorted

Oprah Winfrey gave a speech at the Golden Globes Jan. 7 that focused on race, gender, injustice and the importance of speaking the truth, all of which fueled talk about Winfrey running for president in 2020.

The speculation has led to numerous claims about her past statements recirculating on Facebook including her alleged comments about white people in 2014:

"Oprah tells Fox News host ‘all white people have to die,’ " stated an Oct. 12, 2014, headline on American News.

Facebook users flagged the post as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social network’s efforts to combat fake news. We found that the headline distorts what Winfrey said — and where she said it.

While the headline said that Oprah made the comment about white people on Fox News, Winfrey’s comments came in an interview with the BBC.

Winfrey was interviewed by the BBC’s Will Gompertz on Nov. 13, 2013, to coincide with the release of her film The Butler in which she played Gloria Gaines, the wife of a White House butler.

Gompertz asked Winfrey to weigh in about whether racism still exists.

Winfrey said that society has evolved on race relations, but there are still places where people are terrorized because they are black.

"As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin, the problem is not solved. There is a whole generation -- I said this for apartheid South Africa, I said this for my own community in the south -- there are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in that prejudice and racism and they just have to die."

Winfrey’s overall point during the interview is that race relations have improved from decades ago, but there are older people in the United States and other countries who grew up surrounded by racism. The inference of her comments is that when older racists die out, that particular type of racism will die out.

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Note that Winfrey didn’t say "all white people have to die" — she didn’t say "white people" at all.

While some on the left have shown some support for Winfrey’s 2013 statement, her comments drew criticism from conservatives.

About a week after her BBC interview, her comments were criticized on Fox News' The Kelly File by former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a Fox News commentator.

West criticized Winfrey and Obama for trying "to use the race card to talk about the failures and the faults not in his racial content but in the content of his character and the failure of his policies."

We emailed American News and did not get a reply.

Our ruling

A headline on American News said that "Oprah tells Fox News host ‘all white people have to die.’" We found multiple versions of this story circulating with similar headlines.

The headline gets key details wrong and twists Winfrey’s words. She did not say that all white people have to die. What Winfrey actually told a BBC interviewer in 2013 was that some older people grew up surrounded by racism. When she said "they just have to die," she seemed to be suggesting that a certain type of racism will have to die out when this generation dies.

We rate this claim False.


Our Sources

BBC, "the Butler, racism and Obama," Nov. 13, 2013

Fox News The Kelly File, Interview with former U.S. Rep. Allen West, Nov. 20, 2013

Mississippi Link, "Oprah goes there: 'Obama is disrespected because he's black,'" Nov. 21, 2013

Jezebel, "Oprah Joins the Long Line of People Waiting for Old Racists to Die," Nov. 15, 2013

Oprah Winfrey, Speech at the Golden Globes, Jan. 7, 2018

Washington Post The Fix, "Oprah might run for president. We did the opposition research for you," Jan. 9, 2018

Snopes, "Did Oprah Winfrey Say 'Old White People Have to Die'?" Jan. 10, 2018

PolitiFact, Former U.S. Rep. Allen West file, accessed Jan. 16, 2018

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Oprah's comments about race in 2013 BBC interview distorted

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