May 11, 2020 / 9:45 PM / 19 days ago

False claim: Oprah Winfrey's comments appear to condone child abuse

Social media users have been sharing a video clip of Oprah Winfrey taken out of context and incorrectly headlined to allege she is condoning the sexual abuse of children. This is misleading and false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples can be seen ( here ) and ( here ) .

Most iterations of this claim link to a YouTube video clip of Winfrey that is low resolution and overlaid with emojis and text.

The original video, from which the clip is taken, is an interview called “Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland” about the documentary “Leaving Neverland” that aired in 2019. In the video, Winfrey is interviewing Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who were subjects of the documentary, and Dan Reed, the director. ( here )

“Leaving Neverland”, in which two adult men say they were befriended by Jackson and were abused by him from the ages of seven and 10 in the early 1990s, was met with a mixture of horror and disbelief by audiences after a two-part airing on U.S. cable channel HBO ( here here ).

Winfrey’s words have been taken out of context in the short video that is the subject of this check, and the video is misleadingly headlined to suggest she is condoning or promoting sexual abuse. The video singles out a two-minute section out of the original, almost hour-long interview, in which Winfrey talks about the topic of grooming.

The clip has also been edited together, leaving out a dialogue exchange between Winfrey and her guests. The original interview can be viewed on HBO, starting around 31 minutes in. ( bit.ly/3bqYakm )

The title of the short video reads “OPRAH SAYS ‘IT FEELS GOOD TO BE MOLESTED AS A CHILD’ & IF DONE RIGHT THE CHILD SHOULDN’T REMEMBER”. This is false. Oprah does not say this in the original video.

Winfrey talks about how an abuser can be someone that the victim knows personally and loves or admires. By gaining a victim’s trust, she says, the victim might not be aware of the abuse, and that abuse may in some circumstances feel good to the victim in that moment. She goes on to explain that this is “one of the reasons it’s so confusing for children”.

Winfrey, herself a sexual assault survivor, has been open about her own years-long experiences of abuse when she was a child. ( here ). In an interview with PEOPLE in 2018 she said: “It happened to me at 9, and then 10, and then 11, and then 12, 13, 14. You don’t have the language to begin to explain what’s happening to you. That’s why you feel you’re not going to be believed. And if the abuser, the molester, is any good, they will make you feel that you are complicit, that you were part of it. That’s what keeps you from telling.”

She told the story for the first time in 1989 on the Oprah Winfrey Show ( here ).

VERDICT

False. This video has been edited, taken out of context and given a misleading headline. In the HBO interview from which the clips were taken, Oprah Winfrey was not condoning child sexual abuse but discussing grooming and dynamics that can arise in situations of abuse.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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