Did politics create a slippery slope for Oprah?

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In TV, 24 years is an awfully long time. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" having been on the air that long can't help but struggle to stay on top. And an Associated Press story this week illuminates that -- despite the hubub we've experienced here in Chicago, with the Mag Mile shut-down, plus the big Whitney Houston interview and more -- Oprah's show has slipped 7 percent in the ratings. Like so many other daytime programs right now.

The story concludes that one of the reasons for the slight decline is that the once apolitical Oprah began showing her personal allegiances:

By endorsing Barack Obama and campaigning for him, she shucked her apolitical image. Winfrey's book club selection of Eckhart Tolle's New Age religion book A New Earth angered some conservative Christians -- even though Winfrey's producer said Winfrey was careful not to push Tolle's views on viewers through the television show.

The New York Times commented on the situation, quoting itself from an analysis during the campaign:

She is, without a doubt, the most powerful endorsement in pop culture. Her book club can turn obscure novels into immediate hits, and anything she endorses on her annual "Favorite Things" show becomes impossible to find. But that's because in her contract with her audience, she never has a piece of what she is pushing. Her interest is your interest because she is not for sale.

After her endorsement of Mr. Obama, however, the message boards on Oprah.com are alive with allegations of "betrayal" and "sellout." Mr. Obama's base may have been engaged, but part of Ms. Winfrey's base is livid.

Even on this blog, you'll still find comments of that tone. When Oprah remarked how "stunned" she was at the backlash to Obama's health-care speech, comments included the suggestion that she is "infatuated with this man [and has] little objectivity."

Nearly a year past the Obama campaign, what's your perspective? Did Oprah's siding with the president influence your opinion of her -- or your viewing habits?

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on September 15, 2009 11:04 AM.

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