Does Oprah Regret Getting Involved With Leaving Neverland? Nah.

Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage at the 10th Anniversary Women In The World Summit on April 10, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Mike Coppola (Getty Images)

When you reach single-name—hell, single initial—status like Oprah Winfrey, do you have room for regrets?

In the April 30, 2019 issue of The Hollywood Reporter—the magazine’s first “Empowerment Issue”—the media juggernaut takes the cover and discusses everything from the 2020 election, dapping up her homegirl Gayle King for her acclaimed R. Kelly interview, leaving 60 Minutes, and the heavy criticism she received for her involvement in HBO’s controversial Leaving Neverland documentary.

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Following Leaving Neverland’s wide release on HBO, Oprah aired a post-documentary interview with accusers Wade Robson, James Safechuck, and the film’s director Dan Reed. A number of Michael Jackson’s fans were furious, especially given the fact Oprah had interviewed the late pop star before his death and identified as a fan herself.

MJ defenders quickly swarmed to social media to criticize Oprah for what they believed was a betrayal. One particular Twitter thread of note accused Oprah of holding a personal vendetta against the late King of Pop for decades.

“I don’t regret it ... I saw it, and I was shaken by it,” Oprah recalled. “I wasn’t even shaken by the fact that it was Michael Jackson, I was shaken by the fact that [filmmaker] Dan Reed had done a really good job of showing the pattern, and for years, I had been trying to show people the pattern. I’d been trying to say it’s not about the moment, it’s about the seduction.”

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The mogul did address the backlash, but seemed to take it all in stride. After all, she’s not new to this, she’s true to this. She reminisced about the time she guested on the iconic episode of 90s sitcom Ellen, where Ellen DeGeneres came out on television, sparking a shift for the LGBTQ+ community in mainstream media.

“Oh, the hateration,” Oprah quipped. “Honeeeeey, I haven’t had that much hateration since ‘The Puppy Episode’ with Ellen and it made me think, ‘Thank goodness Ellen’s coming out was before social media because can you imagine?’ During ‘The Puppy Episode,’ I had to take the people who were on my switchboard at Harpo off the switchboard because of the vitriol. They were scared...”

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Also of note, THR asked Oprah the question asked of any person who’s had a prominent voice in politics: Who is she rooting for in the much-anticipated 2020 presidential election?

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“Right now, I’d probably want to sit down and talk to Butta [Pete Buttigieg] ... Mayor Pete’ feels easier,” she told THR. “I like saying Butta.’ (Laughs.) So I’m reading about him. I have Kamala’s book. I just got the Vanity Fair piece on Beto [O’Rourke]. I’d done some research background stuff on him before. I already know Cory [Booker]. So I’m quietly figuring out where I’m going to use my voice in support.”

Now, let’s stop right there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, presidential candidate pick, blah blah blah, but did she just call Pete Buttigieg, “Butta?!” Peak black auntie moment.

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It perfectly aligns with that politically correct staged soul food lunch Buttigieg recently shared with Rev. Al Sharpton.

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I imagine one part of their convo went a little something like this:

Al Sharpton: *stares at single dry toast across from Buttigieg’s full platter of black voter-seasoned fried chicken, greens, and macaroni n’ cheese*

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Pete Buttigieg: Would you like some butta for that toast, Rev? You know, Oprah calls me that. BUTTA. Want some BUTTA 2020 toast, Rev?

Yeah.

Oprah Winfrey will be honored with THR’s first-ever Empowerment in Entertainment Award today, April 30th, presented by Alicia Keys.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.