Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul and billionaire, ignited a firestorm of speculation about the potential of her running for president in 2020 after delivering a stirring speech at the Golden Globe awards on Sunday night.
“I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” Winfrey said while accepting the annual Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, named after the legendary filmmaker.
She added: “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
The remarks by Winfrey, the first black woman to win the award, were praised for touching on topics of social justice, including the wave of allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond.
But Winfrey, who has never held public office and has no prior political experience, remains largely a mystery on a wide array of political and policy matters.
Here’s some of what we do know about where the former daytime talk show icon stands on the issues.
Winfrey backed Obama, Clinton presidential bids
Winfrey was supportive of the presidential campaigns of then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, as well as his re-election bid in 2012, and of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I’m with her. I have to say, I’m with her,” Winfrey said of Clinton during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in June 2016. “I would also say that regardless of your politics, you cannot be a woman in the world and not see that this is a monumental time for women breaking the ceiling.”
But Winfrey’s endorsement of Clinton was somewhat tepid, with the former TV host appearing to acknowledge Clinton’s low popularity ratings — which recent polling placed at 36 percent – in her campaign assessments.
“The reason why I haven’t been vocal [in supporting Clinton], other than saying I’m with her, is because I didn’t know what to say that could actually pierce through all the noise and the chaos and the disgusting vitriol that’s going on and actually be heard,” Winfrey told a Dallas-based pastor in October 2016.
“She’s not coming over to your house! You don’t have to like her,” Winfrey added.
Winfrey famously used her high-profile persona to raise Obama’s national image in 2008, helping to raise money and appearing with him on the campaign trail. Winfrey declined to publicly endorse Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, however, saying that she felt she “doesn’t need to endorse him because I am a 100% supporter of him and I’ve already endorsed him.”
Winfrey favors increased background checks on guns
Winfrey has repeatedly spoken out against legislative inaction in the face of high-profile mass shootings over the past several years.
During a 2013 commencement address at Harvard University, Winfrey lamented the death of 20 children and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 in a call for stricter regulations on guns.
“We understand that the vast majority of people in this country believe in stronger background checks because they realize that we can uphold the Second Amendment and also reduce the violence that is robbing us of our children,” she told Harvard graduates. “They don’t have to be incompatible.”
Winfrey supportive of paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
At Harvard, Winfrey addressed ongoing efforts to deliver on immigration reform, a topic that lawmakers continue to tussle over as they dispute the fate of millions of young undocumented immigrants protected under the DREAM Act.
The remarks, which came just shy of a year removed from Obama’s launch of the initiative, said government owed it to undocumented immigrants to make U.S. citizenship an attainable goal.
“We understand that most Americans believe in a clear path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants who reside in this country,” she said, “because it’s possible to both enforce our laws and, at the same time, embrace the words on the Statue of Liberty that have welcomed generations of huddled masses to our shores. We can do both.”
Winfrey a staunch advocate of LGBT rights
Winfrey used her highly visible and powerful perch on daytime television to hold discussions on the debate over gay marriage as early as 1991. Her early interviews of gay and lesbians guests and episodes dedicated to issues like homophobia, along with that of other tabloid TV hosts, is credit by some sociologists with popularizing LGBT acceptance in the press.
At various points in her career, Winfrey has defended gay rights and spoken in support of legalizing gay marriage.
In 1997, Winfrey, raised as a Baptist, discussed faith and homosexuality with audience members on her program, rebutting a woman who cited the Bible to claim that “homosexuality is wrong.”
“The God I serve doesn’t care if you’re tall or short or whether you were born black or Asian or gay,” Winfrey replied.
Winfrey stressed importance of press freedom at Golden Globes
Winfrey, who in a hypothetical 2020 presidential run would face a president who frequently maligns and berates the media, made a point to defend press freedom during her Golden Globes address.
“We know the press is under siege these days,” she said. “We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice.”
She added: “I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
‘60 Minutes’ approach signals wish to lessen political polarization
As a newly minted special contributing correspondent to CBS’ stalwart “60 Minutes” program, Winfrey has set out to tackle issues of division in the U.S.
In her debut episode, she set off for Michigan to meet with voters to answer the question “Is the U.S. still a nation divided?”
The issue, according to Jeffrey Fager, the show’s executive producer, is one Winfrey is uniquely able to tackle given her ability to reach through the television and tap into the mind of every Americans.
“What we’re setting out to do is conquer the divide in America, try to understand it better, try to shed some light on where these differences lie,” he told Vogue. “I think a lot of people now realize that this was one of the great missed stories of our generation — that there is so much bitterness in America today — and we really see it as something that Oprah can help us better understand, and by doing that hopefully narrow that divide and start us talking again.”
Winfrey questioned the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq
“The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in late 2002 and early 2003, ran a series questioning the U.S. military response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The shows, titled “Is War the Only Answer?”, earned praise from the left-leaning filmmaker Michael Moore, an outspoken critic of the ensuing Iraq War.
They also faced heavy backlash from conservatives, with Winfrey telling Oprah Magazine she’d never seen such strong pushback to a series on her program.
“In the history of my career, I've never received more hate mail — like ‘Go back to Africa’ hate mail,” she said. “I was accused of being un-American for even raising the question.”
But will she even run?
Despite the hullabaloo over how Winfrey would fare in 2020, it remains unclear whether she is serious about mounting a run, having sent mixed signals on whether she is interested in public office in the past.
CNN reported on Monday that Winfrey was mulling a campaign bid, but in the past she has shot down the possibility. “No, that won’t be happening,” Winfrey told Bloomberg in March 2017 about the possibility of her running.
But Winfrey also mused that she had never thought she could run since she lacked political experience.