morning-joe

Skinheads prompted Oprah to turn away from shock topics

Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:42 AM ET

Over the years, Oprah Winfrey has established a reputation for herself as a leader of “life-changing” television. But it wasn’t always that way. Long before heart-touching stories, book clubs and gratitude journals became the norm for “The Oprah Winfrey Show," the talk titan indulged in the same sensational tabloid topics viewers could find all over daytime TV.

During an interview on msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” Winfrey revealed the moment when everything changed for her.

“I made a decision in the 90s. I was interviewing skinheads in the Ku Klux Klan, and I made a decision,” Winfrey explained. “There was a moment during a commercial break where one of them said, ‘Get her!’ and I made a decision that I was not going to use the platform for anything that I thought would not bring a little piece of light into people’s lives.”

While that decision is what put the host on the path that eventually made her a media giant, at the time, it hardly seemed a move that would one day see her all the way to the 25th and final season of her show.

“A lot of my affiliates were like, ‘Well don’t tell people you’re going to take the high road. You’ll lose the numbers,’” Winfrey recalled. “And we did, the numbers dipped. But I thought either I’m going to do what feels right for me or I’m going to leave the business.”

The rest is TV-empire-making history. As of Friday, the OWN founder has 43 episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” remaining. 

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