Oprah Recalls the Moment She Learned She Was Trending Thanks to an Ugly Rumor
"My worst fear realized. Being slandered, accused of a crime I didn't commit."
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Imagine sitting cozily in bed, propped up on your favorite pillows, 240 pages into a riveting family saga—when you get a phone call telling you you're trending on Twitter. And you discover it's a bogus and vile story that you were arrested and your home was raided for sex trafficking and child pornography. I can't and don't want to imagine an uglier accusation.
At first I was confused. Yes, that's my name: "Oprah." But I'm in my bed in my pj's and socks, and somehow #OprahArrested is a thing. My worst fear realized. Being slandered, accused of a crime I didn't commit.
In 1988, I pulled a wagon carrying 67 pounds of fat onstage during what is still the highest-rated Oprah show ever. From that day forward, I was exploited regularly with false, crude, inappropriate stories about me and food. And then about me and Stedman. And me and Gayle. Anything and everything that could sell a tabloid. Every week, another lie to ignore or deny. I never got used to it.
Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE. Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.🙏🏾— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) March 18, 2020
I always feared what the next false headline would be. Why? Because I knew for sure that while a lot of people dismissed the stories, a lot of other people believed them.
My fear of being punished for something I didn't do stems from growing up being whupped for minor infractions. Accidentally breaking a glass or a dish, getting my Sunday dress dirty, playing in a puddle with my shoes on. Just being a kid.
I grew up trying to please everyone to avoid the whipping. It was hardwired in my head.
Eventually, after five decades, I began to heal my disease to please by learning to operate from intention.
And yet when a false rumor—or a vile, disgusting attack—is contrived and amplified through social media, I'm still hit with the same anxiety I felt as a child prolonging the walk to find a switch for my grandmother to lash me with.
Lies are like those lashes. As a young girl, I never got angry; whippings made me sad. The same is true today. Except the sadness isn't for myself—it's for what I see the world becoming. How easy it is to slice, destroy, cancel someone with vitriol. How easily people swallow and spread that vitriol with gleeful memes.
No matter the challenge or situation, I always ask, What is this here to teach me? And even when I don't know the answer, I know one thing for sure. To paraphrase Genesis 50:20: What man intended for evil, God intended for good.
No matter our fears, we all must learn to do what a brave nurse I met in the heat of the Covid-19 crisis shared. Idara Inokon, from New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told me, "I'm taking my fear and channeling it into courage." Amen to that.
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