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Does Oprah Have a History of Making Disputed Racism Claims?


"...having a problem with North Africans lately."

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Oprah Winfrey attends LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Los Angeles premiere, hosted by TWC, Budweiser and FIJI Water, Purity Vodka and Stack Wines, held at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on August 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Getty Images for TWC

In 2005, Oprah Winfrey accused luxury store Hermes in Paris of turning her away when she stopped in to purchase an expensive watch for singer Tina Turner. A spokesperson for the TV personality later referred to the incident as her "crash moment."

"Crash" was a 2004 film that centered around the damaging effects of racism. The phrase "crash moment" refers to "situations where a party feels discriminated against on the basis of skin color," CNN reported in 2005.

Oprah Winfrey attends Los Angeles premiere of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," hosted by TWC, Budweiser and FIJI Water, Purity Vodka and Stack Wines, held at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live in Los Angeles, August 12, 2013. (Getty Images for TWC)

The claim is extremely similar to Oprah's recent claim of discrimination she supposedly experienced at a high-end boutique in Zurich, Switzerland. In that case, she says a sales assistant refused to show her a $38,000 handbag because it was too expensive for her. The sales assistant and the store manager have both strongly denied the allegations.

As it turned out, Oprah and her team arrived at Hermes at around 6:45 p.m. on June 14, 2005, which was about 15 minutes after the store had closed and was setting up a private PR event. A store spokesperson said a security guard informed the star that the store was closed. Oprah was given a card and told to come back the next day.

Surveillance footage of the exchange backed up the store's account. Oprah apparently wanted the store to allow her to make a quick purchase, but was denied.

The New York Post, citing various sources close to Oprah, reported she was turned away because the store had been "having a problem with North Africans lately."

A Hermes spokesperson vehemently denied the allegation.

"There was never any discussion of North Africans," she said. "The story is not true."

However, Hermes still ended up apologizing to Winfrey for the misunderstanding.

"Hermes regrets not having been able to accommodate Ms. Winfrey and her team and to provide her with the service and care that Hermes strives to provide to each and every one of its customers worldwide," the store said in a 2005 statement. "Hermes apologizes for any offense taken due to such circumstances."

The CEO of the store also reportedly contacted Oprah's team after the incident and invited her back to the store.

UPDATE: Mediaite's Noah Rothman points out that Oprah also claimed to be a victim of racial discrimination in 1998:

In 1998, when an Amarillo, Texas, jury ruled that Winfrey did not have to pay $11 million to a group of Lone Star State cattle ranchers who alleged that her show on Mad Cow Disease needlessly demeaned them and their industry, Winfrey claimed to be a victim of racial discrimination.

“I believed from the beginning this was an attempt to muzzle [my] voice,” Winfrey said. “I come from a people who have struggled and died in order to have a voice in this country, and I refuse to be muzzled.” Winfrey moved her show to Amarillo for the month of court proceedings.

Featured image via Getty for TWC

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)


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