Steven Spielberg: I will back Oprah if she makes White House bid

Director says talk show host is ‘on the money on women’s issues’ and would make a brilliant president, ‘the ambassador of empathy’

US film director Steven Spielberg poses on the red carpet on arrival for the European premiere of his film 'The Post' in London on January 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
US film director Steven Spielberg poses on the red carpet on arrival for the European premiere of his film 'The Post' in London on January 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

Steven Spielberg on Thursday added his voice to the celebrities and pundits calling on talk show host Oprah Winfrey to run for president.

Social media lit up with the prospect of Winfrey as a presidential candidate, following her speech at the Golden Globes Sunday.

Spielberg told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper that “Oprah Winfrey would make an absolutely brilliant president,” adding, “If she declares, I will back her.”

The Jewish director, in London to promote his latest movie, “The Post,” praised the queen of the talk show, saying her empathy was just what the United States needed.

“She is crackerjack on the money on women’s issues and I call her the ambassador of empathy. And our country could use a dose of empathy right now,” he told the paper.

Actress and TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey poses with the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the 75th Golden Globe Awards on January 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN)

Although Winfrey has no previous political experience, Spielberg felt that should not stop her from running.

The paper asked the director whether he felt the television star had the skill set to be president. “Does our current president have the skill set to be president?” he answered.

The Guardian suggested that perhaps it would be better for the Democrats to seek a candidate with prior political experience. Spielberg said: “I think we need a mindful, empathetic human being in the White House who understands people and puts people ahead of their own ideas of power and self-aggrandizement – and I think Oprah has already proved her capacity for selflessness.”

Since Sunday night, Hollywood, liberals and ardent fans have been abuzz with speculation that the billionaire chat show queen is harboring Oval Office ambitions.

Winfrey had barely finished calling for a “new day” following a sexual harassment watershed, before calls snowballed for one of America’s most famous women, a self-made tycoon born into poverty, to run for the highest office in the free world.

Hollywood’s loathing of Trump and bafflement that a crass-talking reality star with no previous government experience could win the presidency have fueled talk of well, why not another television star, only one with the “right” politics?

Winfrey herself has never publicly stated any cut-and-dried desire to run for office — reportedly saying “I don’t — I don’t” backstage at the Globes when asked if she planned to run. However Trump himself told Winfrey in 1988 that he too would likely not run for president and yet he now sits in the White House. In 1999, he quipped to CNN’s Larry King that Oprah would his first choice as running mate in a presidential run.

On Sunday night, her longtime partner suggested that she could be persuaded.

“It’s up to the people,” Stedman Graham was quoted as telling The Los Angeles Times. “She would absolutely do it.”

“She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president,” Meryl Streep told The Washington Post. “I don’t think she had any intention (of declaring). But now she doesn’t have a choice.”

If the speculation is wishful thinking, Winfrey’s fame and wealth, extraordinary personal story overcoming poverty, teenage rape and pregnancy to build a $2.6 billion fortune and Oscar-nominated acting career, would stack up nicely in her favor.

“I slept on it and came to the conclusion that the Oprah thing isn’t that crazy,” tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior advisor to Barack Obama, the president whom Winfrey was credited with helping to elect in 2008.

An hour later he qualified his statement, tweeting, “I don’t know if Oprah would be a good President, but she would definitely be a better President than Trump.”

A March 2017 poll by Quinnipiac University that handed Trump a 41 percent job approval rating, said 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of Winfrey.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV that same month, she hinted that Trump’s lack of government experience, had recalibrated her own thoughts. “I thought, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh.'”

‘Would she want to?’

Six months later, Winfrey tweeted to her 41 million followers a link to a New York Post editorial that trumpeted her as the Democrats’ best hope of beating Trump in 2020.

“You need a star — a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine,” ran the editorial. “She can do it – in theory. The question is: Would she want to?”

“Thanks for your VOTE of confidence!” responded Winfrey on Twitter.

Raised in Nashville, Milwaukee and Mississippi, she was raped as a 14-year-old by an uncle and became pregnant, until she miscarried the baby.

After college, she went into journalism before reigning for 25 years as queen of the US talk show, ushering in an era of confessional television before becoming the first black woman to own a television network.

Seth Meyers and his wife Alexi Ashe attend The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images/AFP)

At the start of the Golden Globes on Sunday, host Seth Meyers playfully encouraged Winfrey to run against Trump. Becoming the first black woman to accept the Cecil B. De Mille lifetime achievement award, her speech wove together gender, poverty and race.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men,” she said to a standing ovation. “So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.”

Would the electorate be ready to put not just another television star but another political outsider in the White House?

“There’s a feeling among many in the country that prior political experience is actually a deficit,” said Cindy Rosenthal, political science professor at the University of Oklahoma.

But if politics is a money person’s game, then the odds are still out.

“There is money around for Oprah, Michelle Obama and George Clooney — but the odds suggest The Donald is going to be hard to beat,” said Rupert Adams, spokesman for global betting chain William Hill.

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