Oprah Winfrey was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter this March, but it wasn’t for anything positive. It was over a nasty rumor that she was arrested at her Florida home for being involved in a sex trafficking and child pornography ring.
She wrote about the fake story in a new issue of “O Magazine,” talking about how it truly bothered her and evoked painful memories from her childhood.
The rumor, according to CNN, was started by an infamous far-right online group called QAnon that posts wild conspiracy theories on social media.
A Facebook post stated that COVID-19 was a government operation used to sway people’s attention from celebrities and politicians like Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Justin Trudeau being arrested.
Imprisoned filmmaker Harvey Weinstein’s name also came up, and it was said he cut a deal to name the celebrities who were involved.
Winfrey responded when her name was all over the internet in March and wrote, “Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE. Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.”
Her article that addressed the fake story was published online Wednesday, May 13, and it revealed what Winfrey was doing when talk of the rumor seemed to be at its peak.
“Imagine sitting cozily in bed, propped up on your favorite pillows, 240 pages into a riveting family saga—when you get a phone call telling you you’re trending on Twitter, and you discover it’s a bogus and vile story that you were arrested and your home was raided for sex trafficking and child pornography,” she wrote. “I can’t and don’t want to imagine an uglier accusation.”
“At first I was confused. Yes, that’s my name: ‘Oprah.’ But I’m in my bed in my pj’s and socks, and somehow #OprahArrested is a thing,” she added. “My worst fear realized. Being slandered, accused of a crime I didn’t commit.”
Winfrey then made the connection between the false rumor and something that happened in 1998 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when she wheeled out 67 pounds of animal fat in front of the crowd to show her weight loss.
The media mogul said she was constantly the subject of false, “crude” stories that involved herself and food after that, and other ones about her personal relationships.
“I always feared what the next false headline would be,” wrote Winfrey. “Why? Because I knew for sure that while a lot of people dismissed the stories, a lot of other people believed them … My fear of being punished for something I didn’t do stems from growing up being whupped for minor infraction.”
“I grew up trying to please everyone to avoid the whipping. It was hardwired in my head,” she continued. “And yet when a false rumor — or a vile, disgusting attack — is contrived and amplified through social media, I’m still hit with the same anxiety.”
A few comments were left under the article. One person praised Winfrey for being a “role model for humanity” and said she wouldn’t latch on to questionable news stories about her.
Ava DuVernay was another person who commented on the conspiracy theory. But not under Winfrey’s article, she did it when it was still circulating.
“Trolls + bots began this disgusting rumor. Mean-spirited minds kept it going,” tweeted DuVernay on March 17. “#Oprah has worked for decades on behalf of others. Given hundreds of millions to individuals + causes in need. Shared her own abuse as a child to help folks heal. Shame on all who participated in this.”