Dear Oprah Winfrey,
This letter is extremely hard to write. Many of us (especially women and women of color) have idolized you. You started from nothing, and through a combination of hard work and perseverance you made it from abject poverty and abuse to become a social icon. Your word alone in the nineties and the turn of the century could make any item a success! You had the power to influence people in spite of race, gender or political party. You were a true American popular icon, more trusted than political and religious leaders.
This is why this open letter is particularly painful to me. Why have you used your powerful voice and platform to give a voice to a one-sided “documentary” without allowing the other side of the story? Why have you given a blank check, so to speak, to James Safechuck and Wade Robinson to tell their story without vetting the reliability of their tales? Ms. Winfrey, you were a journalist before you became a talk show host. You more than anyone understand the journalistic credo and concept of “reliable sources.” You have committed journalistic malpractice by validating this documentary and worse, by telling the audience how to think and effectively telling the audience to boycott a performer’s legacy because of how YOU feel about what you’ve seen. How dare you! Who do you think you are?
This is dangerous, Ms. Winfrey. Let’s take Michael Jackson out of equation. What you have systematically done is become the arbiter of right and wrong. “I am Oprah and say this is how it is and I expect you to go along with it without question.” The problem is, Ms. Winfrey, that quite a few media outlets agree with you and tried to shut down any narrative but one you believe in. That places you in a powerful position of privilege. A position of power that is abusive to the democratic values that western civilization was built on. Therefore, beyond this documentary, others and I will not sit here and allow you to tarnish what’s left of journalistic ethics and basic rights of those who are accused. Because ultimately, that is the crux of this matter. Michael Jackson had right. He had the right to defend himself against accusations in a court of law, not a court of public opinion, especially not your opinion, Ms. Winfrey.
There are those will say that Michael Jackson is dead. Why can’t Safechuck and Robson tell their story? Jackson is indeed dead and can no longer defend himself. But countless others aren’t dead that can provide exculpatory evidence that would at least raise doubt of the accusers’ stories. Why did you and the director give weight to these accusations without making these accusers provide one shred of evidence to back their claims? Because if that had happened the narrative of this documentary would have changed, giving the audience a chance to view the evidence and come to their own conclusion.
But you and the director didn’t want that did you?
I’m so disappointed in the woman that I considered a pioneer in television broadcasting.
We are always told to speak truth to power.
You gave truth to power to two accusers who are proven liars. Who have perjured themselves. You didn’t adhere to any journalistic integrity.
How are you going to support an horrific narrative by presenting only one side of someone’s story, and then tell the audience what to think and how to behave? You abused your power by not allowing your audience to make an informed decision based on BOTH sides of the story. By suppressing the other side, you have essentially become the antithesis of freedom of the press.
Don’t do this. Remember who you are and where you came from. I don’t require you to change your mind on Michael Jackson. You have a right to your opinion. However, you don’t have a right to make your opinion my own through the fraudulent and manipulative means this documentary used.