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Oprah’s 2013 Quote on Racism, in Context

Q: Did Oprah Winfrey say, “White People Just Have To Die.”

A: No. In 2013, she said that older people, who were born, and bred, and marinated” in racism “have to die” before racism can be solved.


Did Oprah say that white people just have to die?


Although the next presidential election is still nearly three years away, speculation that Oprah Winfrey could take the White House in 2020 has been running wild.

It’s an idea that has been simmering for years, but talk of a presidential run took off in earnest when the TV and film star recently gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes on Jan. 7.

The flip side of all that buzz is the dissection of her previous statements.

One statement that is getting traction is based on something Winfrey said in 2013 while promoting the movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

She sat down for an interview with the BBC’s Will Gompertz shortly before the movie’s British premier and answered this question about the racism portrayed in the film:

“Are these historical comments or are we still looking at a contemporary issue?”

Winfrey answered, “It would be foolish to not recognize that we have evolved.” She credited civil-rights era laws for helping society to progress beyond the kind of ingrained prejudice that was portrayed in the film.

“Are you saying, ‘problem solved’?” Gompertz later asked.

“I’m saying, problem not solved,” Winfrey said, explaining that movies can help people to understand the historical context of issues like racism, but also show how much progress has been made and how much there is still left to make.

“As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin, the problem is not solved,” Winfrey said. “As long as there are people who still — and there’s a whole generation, I … said this for apartheid South Africa, I said this for my own community in the south — there are still generations of people, older people, who were born, and bred, and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die.”

The last five words of her answer have been clipped and recast in headlines like “Democrat Oprah Winfrey: white people have to die VIDEO” and “Oprah: ‘White People Just Have To Die.’

Facebook users flagged the stories as potentially false, and readers wrote to us asking if those headlines were true.

She didn’t say all white people have to die, but she did say that “older people, who were born, and bred, and marinated” in racism “just have to die” before racism can be solved.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.


Costa, Robert. “Talk of Oprah running for president captivates Democrats.” Washington Post. 8 Jan 2018.

Scher, Bill. “The Serious Case for Oprah 2020.” Politico. 1 Mar 2017.

Winfrey, Oprah. “Oprah Winfrey Receives Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes.” NBC YouTube channel. 7 Jan 2018.

Gompertz, Will. “Oprah Winfrey: The Butler, racism and Obama.” BBC. 13 Nov 2013.

Democrat Oprah Winfrey: white people have to die VIDEO.” PacificPundit.com. 9 Jan 2018.

Oprah: ‘White People Just Have To Die.’” PatriotNewswire.com. 7 Jan 2017.

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2018-01-19 21:37:56 UTC

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Saturday, January 7, 2017