Oprah Winfrey’s appearance at the 2018 Golden Globes has set the political rumor mill on fire with everyone speculating whether the celebrity will be making run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020.
At the award show, Oprah was honored as the first African-American woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which recognizes those that have made outstanding contributions to entertainment. Speaking to a national audience, as well as a room full of black-clad celebrities, Oprah’s acceptance speech was powerful and important as she encouraged women, the #MeToo movement, and the Time’s Up initiative. Whether or not she meant to do it, Oprah’s performance has landed her name in the ring for the 2020 presidential race.
It is completely understandable why Oprah makes such an alluring potential candidate. Politicos love her because she has favorable name recognition, an established brand, and celebrity appeal. At the same time, all those years connecting with the audiences of her daily talk show has made her seem relatable, likable, and just like us. Her speech at the Golden Globes was just another reminder that Oprah has the ability to inspire and move people. She knows how to deliver a stirring message and she struck the right cord at such an important time in our history. Of course, having a successful career as she blazed her own path as a strong, independent African-American woman doesn’t hurt either.
But our fast paced, social media driven, celebrity-obsessed culture has a way of forgetting about the details as these heroic figures weigh in on the topic of the moment. As inspiring as Oprah is on so many things, I’m afraid she would not be considered a “friend of agriculture.”
Such an assessment shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, it was Oprah’s support and influence that allowed Dr. Oz to gain national recognition and prominence. Surely she had to know he was a charlatan and quack even back then. Dr. Oz has gone on to have his own television show, magazine, and Dr. Oz approved product line. He is consistently using the platform that Oprah gave him to stoke fears about genetically modified crops (GMOs), pesticides, and our food. He’s promoted all of his pseduoscientific friends to share the latest fad diets, detoxes, and terrible health advice. Dr. Oz’a woo-mongering is so bad, even Congress called him out on it.
But Oprah does a pretty good job of promoting an anti-agriculture mentality herself.
Oprah has been cozy with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an animal rights activist organization that uses donations to support anti-agriculture ballot proposals and legislation across the country with the goal of ending animal agriculture completely. She publicly supports the Meatless Monday campaign and her talk show regularly welcomed guests to discuss the horrible treatment of farm animals in the United States. For example, following a 21-day vegan cleanse, Oprah wrote an essay about the experience stating:
I learned a lot about how animals are treated and mistreated before they get to our tables. It is appalling and beneath our humanity to allow the torture of animals for the sake of our gluttony. We’ve neglected basic human decency on such a large scale, and it really does bleed over into every other aspect of life.
After ending her talk show, Oprah’s next career move was to become an organic farmer in Hawaii. The fact that Oprah decided to have an organic farm shouldn’t be surprising, since her magazine O heavily touts the supposed health and safety benefits of organic products. (See this, this, this, this, and this article.) Oprah’s message is clear: if you want to be healthy, you need to eat organic! Forget that organic farming is not better for the environment, does not produce a better product, and usually uses fear-based marketing.
Don’t worry, GMOs have not gotten a free pass! When O Magazine asked if we know how GMOs affected our health, the answer was:
The answer is, no one really knows. GM foods have been on the market only since 1994, and research on their long-term effects on humans is scarce. To date most of the studies have been done on animals; worryingly, though, some of those studies link GM foods to altered metabolism, inflammation, kidney and liver malfunction, and reduced fertility. In one experiment, multiple generations of hamsters were fed a diet of GM soy; by the third generation, they were losing the ability to produce offspring, producing about half as many pups as the non-GM soy group.
Yes, Oprah’s magazine actually cited Seralini’s retracted rat study, and gave credibility to all of the other false claims made about GMOs and health. Either way you want to slice it, Oprah opposes GMOs. In fact, when Oprah was pressured by organic and anti-GMO activists to remove Monsanto as an advertiser in the magazine, Oprah pulled the ads.
Does that sound like someone that understands modern farming to you?
Now, I know we’re getting ahead of ourselves because, quite frankly, all of this speculation may turn out to be absolutely nothing. And, granted, farming is not the only issue on the table and voters have to consider a whole range of things before casting their ballots. But, for me, how a presidential candidate comes down on the many important issues facing family farmers is at the top of my list. Unfortunately, Oprah doesn’t seem to get it.
Seriously, out of our entire country full of wonderful, intelligent, charismatic, and capable people, I think we can do better.