So it turns out that over the past two and a half decades since its founding, members of Oprah’s Harpo productions have been responsible for the systematic procurement and abuse of young children across Chicago, the US and in South Africa at her Leadership Academy for Girls.
It gets worse. Documentation proves that executive producers of the show were aware of the ongoing abuse and not only failed to report a single case to the authorities, they instituted an active policy of hushing things up. Victims of the abuse are sworn to silence and paid off in order to protect the incredibly lucrative brand of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Ranked the richest and most influential woman in the world, a huge part of Oprah’s success has been her transcendent ability to empathize with others, her massive works of philanthropy, and her verging-on-infallible moral status. Millions of people around the world love and adore Oprah. They have faith in her to do the right thing.
When news of such systemic, globally syndicated abuse comes to public light, what does Oprah do?
Despite a reputation as a micro-manager, does she plead ignorance of the practice within her own company and instead blame ‘a few bad apples’?
Do Oprah and her spokespeople strenuously attempt to downplay Harpo’s culpability, and argue that her company was nowhere near as bad as other companies or institutions such as public schools in regard to sexual abuse?
Does she have her personal assistant go on the attack and accuse the media of a witch-hunt against Harpo, and attempt to liken the media coverage of the scandal to The Holocaust?
Does she personally take over an office in charge of dealing with the complaints, only to have cases languish for years without any action?
And would Oprah’s concern for Harpo Productions be demonstrably and without fail ahead of her concern for the victims?
After years – no decades, of cascading revelations in this vein, what shred of moral authority or credibility would Oprah have left as a public figure, or Harpo Productions have as a company? Or for that matter, any CEO of a major company?
What do you think Oprah would do in such a situation? What would people expect of her?
- Perhaps immediately firing all those responsible for both the abuse and the subsequent cover-up.
- At the same time, offering all these people up to civil authorities and turning over all documentation – without having to be asked for either.
- Resigning her own position.
- Disbanding Harpo productions.
- Liquidating every one of its considerable assets and using them to instead set up an all-new, non-profit, charitable trust for helping the poor and oppressed around the world in destitute neighborhoods in the First world and entire countries in the Third world, involving the establishment of schools, access to clean drinking water, food, and medical treatment / facilities.
“People with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an excess of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named co-respondent. In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of mortal nerve; they display what was once called character…” – Joan Didion (via Andrew Sullivan).
To clarify, this is just a thought experiment; Oprah and her empire haven’t ever had anything to do with child abuse – Oprah herself was the victim of childhood sexual abuse. Personally I think that relinquishing an earthly kingdom of power and treasure, giving it away in perpetuity to the poor and the needy; that would be real moral leadership. If you think about what Jesus would do, between the Op’ and the Pope – who do you trust more to do the right thing?