Oprah Winfrey said she is “furious” at allegations that her absence at the recent funeral for Ebony and Jet magazines founder John H. Johnson was a snub of the pioneering black publisher.
A column published Thursday in the Chicago Defender, a historically significant black daily newspaper, questioned why Winfrey didn’t attend Johnson’s Aug. 15 funeral in her hometown of Chicago. Former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and many notable black media personalities attended the service.
Chicago Defender Executive Editor Roland Martin wrote that many black media figures have been lamenting Winfrey’s “apparent snub of the man who single-handedly made it possible for people like Oprah to launch their own magazines and media companies.”
In another column published Friday, Martin recounted a tense phone conversation he had with Winfrey on Thursday.
“I am furious at the allegations because it’s just not true,” Martin quoted Winfrey as saying in his column. “It’s not true and it’s unfair.”
Winfrey said she was in Hawaii when Johnson died and was unable to make it back for the services, according to Martin’s column. Johnson died of heart failure Aug. 8 at the age of 87.
She said she sent notes to both Johnson’s widow, Eunice, and his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice — even offering to provide Martin copies of the notes and a receipt of the flowers she sent to Johnson’s downtown publishing company, according to the newspaper.
She also told Martin she plans to pay tribute to Johnson when she returns from her summer hiatus with a TV show dedicated to the man who built a media empire and became one of the nation’s wealthiest black businessmen.