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About (Late) Last Night: Oprah Winfrey tells Piers Morgan she hates writing checks to the IRS

January 18, 2011 |  6:32 am

 

 

Last night, to much fanfare and (so far) less-than-glowing reviews, "Piers Morgan Tonight" officially debuted on CNN. For the inaugural episode, the British import scored the biggest celebrity "get" of all, Oprah Winfrey herself.

For most of the interview, Morgan tread on extremely familiar ground. The "Legend of Oprah" is so pervasive that, even for those of us who aren't devoted fans, it's difficult to chart new territory -- that is, unless you make her cry.  Morgan asked all the predictable hot-button questions.  To paraphrase: What's the deal with you and Gayle? Why don't you just get married already? You had it rough as a kid, huh?

This was strictly Oprah 101. To his slight credit, Morgan was burdened with an extremely self-aware subject. Just to state the obvious, Winfrey is nothing if not media-savvy, so she knew exactly which questions Morgan would ask, and she was prepared to head them off at the pass. As a result, the interaction was more like a meta-interview about celebrity journalism. Winfrey repeatedly said things like, "That's such an old story, Piers," and "I knew you were going to go there sooner or later." The implied message from Winfrey? "I'll cry for Barbara Walters but not for you." At times, Winfrey seemed a smidge exasperated with her interlocutor. One wonders if she'd have sat down with Morgan if she didn't have a brand-new cable network to promote; I'm guessing not.

Possibly the most interesting segment was the one in which Morgan asked Winfrey about her fortune. In response, Winfrey was oddly contradictory. "I'm not sitting around counting it," she said at first, the stock answer provided by most absurdly wealthy people when asked pointed questions about their finances.

But Morgan pushed the point.  "I bet you know exactly how much you're worth," he said.  "Yes I do," Winfrey replied confidently.  "So how do you know without counting it?" My thoughts exactly.

Winfrey also admitted that she only personally signs checks over $100,000 and that she's given away more than $300 million of her personal fortune. Winfrey did cop to one thing that made her, for at least a minute, seem more relatable. Like many of use, she hates writing checks to the IRS. Unlike most of us, Winfrey has employees who bring her tequila when she does. The interview was mostly a non-starter, but Morgan, however unwittingly, at least reminded us of one thing: Winfrey's true point of vulnerability is her money.

What did you think? Will you be tuning in to Morgan's show from now on?

-- Meredith Blake
twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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