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A surprise: Oprah pays a real cost for supporting Barack Obama

(UPDATE: This Ticket item has aroused so much interest, traffic and hundreds of comments that a new one has been published this morning. After you've read this item and are ready to go to the new one, just click here to read the reactions of hundreds of Oprah fans and former fans. Thanks for reading.)

Most of the attention on the O2 effect -- Obama and Oprah -- has been focused on how much the daytime TV cult leader helped her home state senator by endorsing him and appearing at all those rallies in Iowa and South Carolina with Barack and Michelle.Daytime TV diva Oprah Winfrey's support of Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle turns out to have cost her perhaps more than she helped him

The 54-year-old Chicago TV hostess certainly helped raise a hefty chunk of change by loaning out her estate for that Obama fundraiser last summer.

Oprah Winfrey has long enjoyed an immense popularity tied to her long-running daytime TV show, which started in 1986, and helped give her favorable ratings around 78% by 1996. So well known is she that one name will suffice, as in our headline.

In one 1999 survey of the most admired and respected 20th-century women, Oprah (26%) came in only second to Mother Teresa (33%), who didn't have her own TV show. And in 2003 a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that 60% thought Oprah was a more powerful woman than someone named Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and senator, who drew only 28%.

Fourteen months ago, a Gallup/USA Today poll found 74% of Americans had a favorable view of the TV personality.

Then on May 1 last year, Oprah announced during....

the Larry King show that she was, for the first time, going to throw her considerable weight behind a political candidate -- Obama.  King's suspenders nearly snapped.

“I think," she told old Lar, "that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than any check.” Although, to be honest, her estimated $2.5 billion in wealth could buy an awful lot of TV ads in Indiana. It might even be able to purchase the Hoosier State. 

But little attention has been paid to the effect of Obama on Oprah. Now along comes Costas Panagopoulos, an assistant professor of political science at New York's Fordham University, to ask and answer just that question.

Writing at, he suggests the aging empress of TV has paid a price for getting into the dirty business of politics with and for her man Barack. By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorabMother Teresa who beat out TV talk-show hostess and billionaire Oprah Winfrey as most admired woman of the 20th centuryle rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop.

Around Thanksgiving she announced that not only was she supporting Obama, but she would campaign with him and we'd see if her political recommendation carried as much weight as her book recommendations. Oprah's political travels produced a media feeding frenzy and a publicity bonanza with women routinely fainting in the front row. The campaign said her rallies produced 10,000 new volunteers.

Winfrey campaigned for Obama in Iowa, which he won, in South Carolina, where he won, and in New Hampshire, where he lost. We haven't heard much about Winfrey since the voting started. Did she realize something we're just getting?  We heard only that she left the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ several years ago, reportedly over some of his more militant sermons that Obama says he never heard.

But 10 days after the campaign media explosion her favorable rating had dropped further to 55% and her unfavorable ratings for the first time climbed to 1 in 3.

A December ABC/Washington Post poll of Democrats found 8% were persuaded by her Obama endorsement, 82% said it wouldn't matter either way and 10% said her recommendation had turned them off Obama.

Now, Panagopoulos has discovered an AOL TV popularity survey of 1.35 million Americans that found 46% said the daytime TV host who "made their day" was Ellen DeGeneres while only 19% chose Winfrey. Forty-seven percent said they'd like to have dinner with Ellen, while only 14% chose Oprah.

Apparently, neither Ellen nor Oprah were asked who they'd like to dine with.

Panagopoulos draws the conclusion that in these days of pervasive media, in reality, celebrity endorsements run the real risk of costing the celebrity more than they benefit the endorsee. So celebs may want to think twice before hitting the stump.

But then how many hundred million dollars a year does an assistant professor at Fordham pull down?

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Newsday, Archdiocese of Colombo

Comments () | Archives (515)

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Who can be surprised by this? People watch Oprah for fun, for fashion tips and makeovers, to win cars, and to inflate the value of their Kleenex stock.

When she tries to pass herself off as a serious political observer, of course people turn away. She is as 'serious' as Bill O'Reilly, Michael 'Savage' or Rush Limbaugh, albeit a good deal less poisonous.

When Oprah tries to inflate herself by other than Twinkies, she loses her core audience. Even those addicted to sob sister stories know the difference between wise politics and gawking celebrity.

We've been down the path of celebrity endorsements too many times before. It is losing credibility by the hour.

Andrew Malcolm writes: "...Now along comes Costas Panagopoulos, an assistant professor of political science at New York's Fordham University..."

Yes, it's just another neutral academic, weighing in obligatorily on the vagaries of celebrity endorsements, especially those of Oprah Winfrey for Obama.

For God's sake, Mr. Malcolm, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! In this case, 10 seconds' worth of googling. Panagopoulos has his own Web site. Check out his bio -- second paragraph, first sentence: "served in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Isn't it conceivable that the interests of Senator Clinton would be served by having a voice from academe issuing admonitions about endorsing her opponent?

Please, Mr. Malcolm -- this is the Los Angeles Times, and your readers deserve better.

Oprah should have done the research before she committed to Obama. That she did not, that she who should have many political sources in Chicago failed to understand the breadth and depth of Obama's dirty dealings, that she left the controversial TUCC and knew that Obama stayed there, that she met the awful Michelle and failed to recognize the terrible self-absorbed arrogance of the Obama family, shows me that she chose Obama for one reason only: his color.

And that is what she had been fighting against for most of her professional life.

For her to have supported Obama in the face of his made-up background, his artificial CV, his ready claiming of other people's accomplishments, and his tacit acceptance and promotion of misogyny, made her less than perfect, flawed even, in the eyes of her many fans.

Like many of the mathematically-challenged in this forum (yes, it IS almost 20 per cent), Oprah should have done her homework.

Would you want Michelle Obama in charge of the White House? She's not proud of this country. Would she redeocorate the WH and sell historical treasures in her anger? Would you want her helping O decide whom to pick for Surpreme Court in her anger? Would she want to raise taxes in her anger? And why did her pastor say "don't aspire to middle class?" Doesn't he want poor people to improve their situation? Can you say "entitlements" three times?

OPRAH is an entertainer. she has a right to opinion, but she should perhaps keep it to herself. she must realize that she has the power to influence millions of people and, with that comes the responsibility to not try and sway people to your own cause or opinion. she should stay out of politics and religon and just have her show.

America is really showing the rest of the world how there really is a divided United States qwhen it comes to all men being created equal. What a shame whe n people really say what on hteir minds.

I am astounded her ratings were ever that high, her show is fluff and style. The whole basis of the show is an informercial . The whole Obama endorsement backfired badly on her and I think she could be a switch-hitter. Daytime TV is for the inmates of insane asylums.

Obama should leave his church when Catholics leave theirs.

What many priests have done to young children is far worse than the rantings of Obama's minister.

Math is fun. Math shows that 20% of 71 is 14.2. So a 13 point drop IS nearly 20%. You might want to try learning about statistics before criticizing the numbers that are being quoted.

"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."

For all of you accusing the researcher of not knowing how to calculate his figures: He cleary stated a nearly 20% drop, not a 20 point drop.

74 x .20 = 14.8
74 - 14.8 = 59.2% which is nearly a 20% drop

The same people who can't even calculate a 20% drop are choosing our president!

No, YOU recheck your math. Andrew Malcolm is correct.

The difference between 74% and 61% is 13. A decline of 13 from 74 represents a 17.57% reduction (13/74 =.1757). This could reasonably be said to be "almost 20%.

There is a difference between saying something declines 20% and saying something declines by 20 percentage points.

If anybody believes that Senator Obama has received anything BUT kid glove treatment from the press, you need to seek professional help immediately. Further--quit trying to rationalize Rev. Wright. Hate is hate. If you can't see that Wright is nothing less than a black slaver--those cretins who enslaved their own people in Africa and then bundled them to ports for far off lands, then you're too far gone. People like Wright use hatred and bitterness as their whips and chains to break you--to beat you down and keep you fearful, distrustful, and empty--and then they deliver you to "port" every 4 years with empty promises of largesse from the Democratic Party. It's the same technique used by cults to keep their members isolated and insulated from the outside world and probably a big reason blacks have seen every immigrant group surpass them--quickly--in the socio-economic food chain.

As for Oprah--who cares? She's entitled to her viewpoint, and we're entitled to ours. She screwed up. Anybody who's owned their own business knows you don't even put up yard signs, much less make public endorsements. But I guess she either calculated she was immune from the backlash of those who disagreed with her choice--or didn't care. Either way, it's going to get a lot worse over the next few months. Hillary supporters are being marginalized, and they make up more than half the party (were Dem primaries winner-take-alls, Hillary would have already secured the nomination).

Not that it worries me--the Democratic Party I knew and loved died in the 70's when we nominated that peanut farmer from Georgia who continues to embarrass.

For the math impaired, let me make it simple. A 10% decline from a starting point of 71% would be 7.1%. A 20% decline would be 14.1%. Thus, a "nearly" 20% decline IS correct.

The scariest part of this entire article is all of the posts that can't do simple math. Only a few can figure out that the poll shows a 17.5% drop (which can reasonably be called almost 20%) as opposed to all the public school educated dunderheads who think it is 13%. And yet, they get to vote.

My father-in-law was Oprah's Pastor when she was a child. I used to attend Church with Oprah in Baltimore. Md.
We still love her, and pray for her. i became concerned years ago when her "show was mainly about SEX, SEX, AND MORE SEX". Later it was about Guru, New age movements, and other religions. This may be her "choice", but many HAVE BEEN TURNED OFF YEARS AGO. The comment about "INNER CITY CHILDREN WONT LEARN SO I HAD TO OPEN A SCHOOL IN SOUTH AFRICA ", HAS CAUSED CONCERNS.
Oprah in many ways is a "disconnect from Blacks".
It is sad that "money and Power by so many 'RICH STARS", can INFLUENCE SO MANY TO DO WHAT THEY SAY, and often what they do, so SAD.
Miss Millie (retired RN NURSE).

I viewed Oprah with a great deal of respect, but now that she is backing a Socialist candidate with a radically un-American platform, all that has changed. I won't watch her show or support her in any way.

Oh, and to the poster "dom" who complained about the math in the article. If you never managed to get past 6th grade math class, you should probably refrain from criticizing others' math skills. Flippin' Idiot !

The fact is this: Blacks have a tribal mentality (proven time and again) which whites have largely overcome. It predisposes them to support only blacks, whether it's OJ or corrupt mayors like Nagan and Marion Barry, con men like Congressman Jefferson, or tyrants like Idi Amin and Mugabe.

Skin color is the litmus test blacks impose on all public figures. That is why there are no whites as popular with blacks as Oprah is popular with whites -- they'll even dump the "first black president," Bill Clinton, for a largely unknown black, Obama. And tribalism is a form of racism.

All Americans should be proud that we have a black running for president: It proves that America has largely overcome racism. It proves that the racist core in this nation resides in the black community.

Perhaps we will be able to address the unique problems blacks have with regard to crime and illegitimacy rates, failures in education racism...without the hysterical black and white liberal race-hustlers screaming "racism!"(?)

But for now, we know that Obama is a racist and has hatred, or at least ambivalence, toward our beloved America. He will be rejected at the polls by loyal Americans.

Still, I am grateful to him for proving, once again, what a great nation this is.

fuzzy math

74% to 61% is NOT "nearly a 20% drop" rather it is a 13% drop, which certainly is closer to 10% than 20%.

Next time try paying $13 for something that costs $20 and see what happens. Fool.

(O.K., one more time: A drop from 74% to 61% is a change of 13 percentage points. But as a proportion of the original 74%, it is "nearly a 20% drop." Divide 13 by 74 and you get 17.6%, which is nearly a 20% drop.)

"For all the math-challendge people.
74% to 61% is a difference of 13 percentage points. 13 percentage points represents 18% of the original 74 percent popularity. So, when you go from 74% down to 61% that represents an 18% drop. Again, based on the original 74%. So, he rounded up from 18."

Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And to all who made the same correction.) i am terrified that people with opinions they consider worthy of airing demonstrate such stupidity.

"None of it matters anyway, Obamas getting votes from people who never watch Oprah and don't care who she is."

Actually, that's only partially right. Obama's getting votes from people who don't know or care who HE is. He is their savior, and they don't care what he's done (nothing but swim in the corrupt waters of Chicago politics) or what he is (an unreconstructed socialist.)

If people had to know anything to vote, there wouldn't be any elections. But I wish they'd at least try to learn facts before they take the future of MY government in their hands.

rr and remedial's take on the subject of math is lacking even remedial level math skills. this typifies perfectly the depths of the liberal brain and the extent/reliability of research that they devote to so many of their arguments.

Oprah is old news and she's getting older by the day. Her show will be off in 2 years. The queen is dying. Face it her influence is still high with the uneducated housewife who eats bon-bons and watches TV all day, but not with educated voters. She thought she could go willy nilly through the nite unscathed, surprise Opraph, ANY star who goes political sees an immediate drop in ratings and box office mojo. Face it, you are bound to pee off 50% of the people regardless of what decision you make. See was seen asa sell out by many women for her choice of a MAN over a woman. Oprah always talked about breaking that glass ceiling but when it came down to it, shejust raised it yet again.

I have been out on Oprah ever since 1985 when she asked then Chicago Bears linebacker Otis Wilson if scoring a touchdown was like an orgasm.

Interesting how this writing uses "aging" to describe Oprah. But "old Lar" to describe Larry King whose probably got at least two decades on Oprah.

Repressed Misogyny?

(Which would make old Lar old. And leave her on the way to old or aging. Which is a whole lot better than not aging cause that means you're dead.)

"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."

The state of America's education system?! A drop from 74% to 61% is closer to 10% than 20%. What kind of basic math are we learning in school?

Thank God people weighed in with an accurate mathematical analysis of the 13% vs. 20% misstatements. I was fearing I was the only one who got it, and the highest grade I ever had in math was a "C"!

I really do not care who Oprah backs as a candidate. For that matter I don't care who anyone backs. The 8% of people who support Obama because she does and the 10% of people who say they are turned off to Obama because of her are the reason our country is the way it is. It is no secret that all of the News Stations and all the Radio Hosts are biased. The problem is taking what they say as fact is what continues to contribute to the mess we are in. What happened to the days where we disagreed but were still civil. All politics are doing is driving a wedge between race lines and religion lines. I don't care what race or religion you are but I have my beliefs and you have yours I respect yours even if I disagree with everything you belive in. Our kids are being killed over these disagreements. When will it end!!! I'm a nobody according to Mr. Malcom (I don't have 2 billion dollars) but I refuse to be a sheep that is going to one day look back and wish I would of stayed with my beliefs. And by the way anyone who belives that Hillary is going to cut the taxes on the "rich" is sadly mistaken. Her and Bill are not going to raise taxes on themselves. If the tax breaks the "rich" receive were so terrible then why don't they pay more taxes the all the other "rich" people. Warren Buffet should do the same.

I am stunned that the people who watch Oprah somehow missed the fact that she is NOT and never in her professional life has been a Christian. She has ALWAYS been new age, ALWAYS pro-gay, and ALWAYS pro-choice. The fact that she is hypnotized by Obama is not surprise, considering the other fakes and charlatans she's fallen for (James Frey, Marrianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle). It almost gives credence to the idea that Obama sat for 20 years in the church without hearing a word the Pastor said. Maybe people who gravitate to snake-oil salesmen like Obama and Oprah really don't have any idea what they are selling.

I doubt it, though. I think Oprah fans are just gullible dopes and Obama devotees are the lowest common denominator of the American voting public. He's the new young thing on the radar screen, and he's totally unsuited to be the President. But nobody cares, because he's so (excuse the expression--it is not meant in the religious sense) "charismatic."

Just keep drinking the Flavor-aid, boys and girls. Yum.

Obama is finished after the the good rev wright poped up. whites will abandon him. but Hillary is even more hated. get ready for a mccain presidency. then Romney in '12

the most uplifting part of this article, is that 33% actually chose Mother Teresa. Maybe there is hope for this country yet.

Everything has a cost. If it is important enough to you pay it, if not you don't. If celebrity endorsements work I do not know. But I would guess O's audience is rather apolitical at the moment of watching her or they would be watching one of the news channels.

None of the math matters when you consider the book 1984 is happening before our very eyes. Now the middle class and upper class are pulling the wagon. Both the Democratic runners are pure Socialists. It appears this country not only can't do math, but will trade their freedom for government programs that have failed miserably elsewhere. Look at our own Social Security and Medicare. They are going broke and the only answer is taking more of our hard earned money. Soon there will be no one to pull the wagon and we will be subservient to the ruling class run by the Hillary's and Obama's of this country.

It is now apparent why education is in need of an overhaul in this country. In several posts it is questioned "since when is a 13% difference equal to 20%". Anyone with any knowledge would understand that the difference of 13% is indeed equal to nearly a 20% drop from he original percentage.

The question here is: What Rverend W knows about BO that give him the power not other person has? Was BO blackmailed from Reverend W?

Who cares about what a professor or any of the bloggers think about oprah & her support for Obama, she makes more money than the professor and most of the bloggers, she has a life, people are only jealous, racist, becaue they wish they had a quarter of what she has>>.she doesn't care about what these bloggers think, they are need to get a life, most of them are racist anyway, so who cares what comments they make.

Subject: Some factual information for you to consider

Real Men
In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery.

For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/ sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

In response to canuck ... There are many idiots everywhere. Don't believe everything you read and don't believe everything is as simple as described in this or any article. For the most part, people with diverse points of view get along just fine here.

You have to have a few screws loose in the ole noggin to really care what these idiots think or do. If you're impressed by an oprah, you should meet my dog Ripley.

>"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."<

Reading the posts on this board serves as a perfect example of the FAILURE of the US education system as well as the STUPIDITY of the average viewer of this site.

The writer did not state that her favorable ratings had dropped 20 PERCENTAGE POINTS but rather that her ratings had dropped 20 PERCENT! DUH

Think about this real hard and get out your calculators, hopefully you will better understand by lunch.

I totally agree with those of you who bring up Oprah's new religion stuff. EVERYONE has a limit where power goes to their head whether or not they want to admit it or not. Her lower ratings have nothing to do with Obama. As a Christian I find it very offensive the remarks she has made about God and her concept of our spirits. We wouldn't have a spirit without God and he wants us to look to him. The Bible is for searching out the truth.

Oprah backed Obama for one reason:

She is the most influential woman in the world but would become #2 once Hillary came to power.

She's using her black make-up to hide this real truth. Hey, only one queen bee allowed.

With regards to the Rev. Wiright. Doesn't anyone remember when Michelle ran her mouth with her racist and anti-us rhetoric. That shows that they have been indoctrinated by the most Rev. Wright. This reminds me of Teresa Heinz when she ran her yap while John boy was running. You notice that she was very quiet and absent from the public for a period after her bout with diarreah of the mouth.
By the way, to become a Rev, can you get that online?

Since when does 74% - 61% round to "nearly a 20% drop"?

Overall I thought the article might have had something to say that was credible, but that obvious slant skews the rest of verbiage out of bounds.

To Canuck:

Boy, am I glad you don't live in the US of A!

"[H]er favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%...but nearly a 20% drop." Since when is 13% near 20%? It is nearly ten! I stopped reading this article after reading that stupidity, as I can see that not only are you spinning, but you are --frankly -- stupid.

Back when I was in school the difference between 0.74 and 0.61 was 0.13, and 0.13/0.74 rounded to 18%.

Is 18% nearly 20%? Was Hillary nearly shot by Bosnian snipers in1996? Was Al Gore nearly President in 2000? Did the Cubs nearly win the pennant in 2003? I guess it all depends on what you mean by "nearly"

C'mon,'s Oprah, for god's sake. She is not a goddess, she is a savvy (but perhaps nots as savvy as we thought) business woman. Who cares if her popularity is declining, other than Harpo productions? She is merely another media personality.

Obama is finally getting the attention he deserves, and some of his supporters aren't happy about this. But, a complete vetting of the candidates is a necessary thing, and if you associate yourself with hate mongers, then you pay the price.

After seeing footage of Ophrey stumping on the campaign trail, I clicked over to the TiVo settings and deleted her longheld "to be recorded" slot from my television.

Not because of WHO she endorsed, but because she transmorphed into a political entitiy at all.

If you've watched the show for any length of time, there was no surprise about Ophrey's political affiliations or her opinions on race in America. We knew.

But I'm not going to stand by support yet another celebrity giving me their political middle finger.

Buh-bye, Ophrey. It has been four months and I don't miss you as much as I thought I would.

Posted by: Maria | April 09, 2008 at 09:16 AM
No one is saying that she CAN'T support Obama, or anyone else. But, those who don't agree with her are also free to quit 'supporting' her.

Posted by: f7dd87 | April 09, 2008 at 01:57 PM
Who gives a damn what the rest of the world thinks about our political process??

For all you math types, a drop of 74% to 61% is indeed an 18% drop, as well as a 13 point drop. As as example, an increase in sales tax from 5% to 6% is not a 1% increase. It is a 20% increase, as well as a 1 point increase.

Oprah's support for Obama, if anything, is helping her image.

Oprah's promotion of her new-age, deceptive, counterfeit religion is quickly - VERY quickly - destroying it.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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