Child trafficking and abuse conspiracy theories circulated in July and August 2020 thanks to ongoing disinformation campaigns, such as the now-infamous — and entirely debunked every step of the way — QAnon conspiracy theory; among those was a TikTok video shared to Facebook, in which Oprah Winfrey appears to condone the sexual abuse of children:
In the above clip, the user claims the video shows Oprah “trying to normalize pedophilia.” The claim also made it to Twitter:
😧 @Oprah #ENOUGH IS E-MUTHUFUCKING-NUFF‼️…#WTF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT‼️… B*TCH YOU OUTTA LINE & I WOULDNT BE SURPRISED IF IT COMES OUT THAT YOU THEN TOUCHED A COUPLE KIDS YOUR DAMN SELF‼️…#INVESTIGATE HER ASS NEXT‼️💯🔥⚔️ #YOUNGPHARAOH#OPRAHWINFREY#PEDOPHILE#BLACKTWITTER pic.twitter.com/LYfCWqWYcb
— Young Pharaoh™ 𓂀 (@PHARAOH_ATEN_) March 18, 2020
A similar clip was shared in July 2020 by a user on iFunny.com.
Oprah ‘Child Abuse’ TikTok Video
We attempted to find the original TikTok video, watermarked with the account @kelseycortes. However, that account was unavailable on August 6 2020.
We then tried to transcribe the clip, which begins and ends mid-sentence. The footage is also rendered oddly, with the clip itself in a small square in what looks like a screen recording on iPhone; in the background, a screen is visible briefly and reads “After Neverland.”
In the short clip, Oprah is quoted as saying:
… respect or maybe even love … and … it feels good, I mean, if you’re seven years old … [repeats] … and someone is stroking your penis, it feels good — for children … and when i first said this years ago people were like “you’re crazy,” ’cause everyone wants to believe it’s like sexual assault and you’re being thrown up against a wall and you’re being raped … and i have said for years if the abuser is any good, you won’t even know it happened, you will be in it and you won’t even know it’s happened, and if the abuser is any good, he or she is going to make y–
Under the clip, the Facebook user wrote:
This is Oprah trying to normalize pedophilia just like Hollywood is trying to right now.
This is their Agenda just like everything else
They are sick people, and they will all burn
PIZZA-GATE IS REAL
Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland
In March 2019, Oprah hosted Wade Robson and James Safechuck to discuss the release of the documentary Leaving Neverland, a description for which reads:
Listen to a conversation hosted by Oprah Winfrey, featuring Wade Robson and James Safechuck, subjects of the two-part HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” alongside director Dan Reed. Taped before an audience of people whose lives have been impacted by sexual abuse, the conversation also features interviews with actor Anthony Edwards and ex-NFL linebacker Al Chesley, both survivors of sexual abuse. Dr. Howard Fradkin, author of “Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive,” explains the telltale patterns often followed by sexual abusers.
A very rough transcription of the podcast was made available on a third-party website. Just prior to the statement by Oprah, one of the men — Robson or Safechuck — answered a question about initially denying abuse by Jackson occurred:
… that felt like a great opportunity to say well you know some of the same things have happened to me … by that time you thought of what you were doing as a bad thing or just as a thing that you all did but you had to keep it a secret. I didn’t think of it as good or bad …it was that or sort of [thinking] of if you’re caught your life will be over and so on … I’m just trying to start a life, so then to be thrown into that was like it was just too much to handle … so when I said no, I wasn’t trying to do the right thing … I was just afraid, and it was self-preservation, so this is what so many people don’t understand[, a] big part of the confusion and shame for child victims is that the attention and the seduction from the predator — who is probably going to be somebody you know.
According to a CNN article, published in March 2019, both men initially denied Jackson abused them:
Both Robson and Safechuck had defended Jackson in the past, with the former testifying on his behalf at Jackson’s 2005 child-molestation trial, which ended in his acquittal. In the film, they talk at length about the way Jackson seduced them and later pressured them not to speak of the sexual abuse, which, they claim, went on for years.
Oprah’s response includes the portion seen in the video. However, it is also clear that portions of her comments referencing her own experience as a child victim of sexual abuse are cut from the video to paint her commentary in a misleading light:
Right. In order for [child abuse] to work [and continue], it has to be somebody you know, somebody you admire, somebody you respect, or maybe even love … and it feels good.
I mean, if you’re seven years old and somebody … which I was trying to say this to my friend[s with children] … you’re seven years old, and someone is stroking your penis … it feels good, even though you don’t have a name for what that is, it feels good.
Reading only to that point seems to validate the claims. But immediately thereafter, Oprah references her own abuse and feelings of being complicit in it as a child:
And that was such a particularly challenging part for me in beginning therapy when … one of the biggest things I kept bringing to therapy wa, you know, what does it mean that it felt good? What does that leave us? I mean, it’s so confusing for children, and when I first said this years ago people are like “you’re crazy,” because everybody wants to believe it’s like sexual assault, and you’re being thrown up against the wall, and you’re being raped.
And I have said for years, if the abuser is any good it will … you won’t even know it’s happened, you will be in it and you won’t even know it’s happened … and if they abuser is any good he or she is going to make you feel like you’re a part of it … I mean in nothing is more being a part of it than what we discussed earlier, then you had you say you were married you had marriage vows and you have rings.
In another portion of the segment not included in the TikTok version, Winfrey spoke about her own realization that she had been the victim of grooming and child abuse:
[During a] day that I was doing a show, and I was forty two years old, actually a show with men would molested their children and stepchildren, and it wasn’t until one of the child molesters, the accused said out loud how he had practiced grooming his thirteen year old daughter that I had a light bulb moment and finally realized at forty two that it was not my fault.
I think for a lot of people to see the grooming process and understand for yourself, “oh that’s what happened to me.” That’s what I’m trying to get you all to see, that you don’t need to be a big iconic star, that this is happening in families and churches and everywhere with somebody who has entrusted themselves, made themselves look, like your mother said, that he just seemed like a wonderful, loving carrying person, and knew how to groom a child in your own particular family. That’s what what what goes on.
Oprah’s Contemporaneous Statements
On March 5 2019, People magazine published a profile, “Months Before Interviewing Michael Jackson Accusers, Oprah Winfrey Opened Up About Her Own Abuse.” That reporting was a bit more focused on Oprah’s experiences, about which she was candid prior to her coverage of Leaving Neverland:
While Winfrey, 65, has been open about her success and obstacles she had to overcome to get there, she stayed quiet about her own experience with sexual abuse — specifically, that she was molested by her cousin, an uncle and a family friend as a young girl.
“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,” the A Wrinkle in Time star told PEOPLE for the March 12, 2018 cover story. “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.”
A clip claiming that Oprah effectively “condoned” child molestation, with obvious jumps and half-sentences, was clearly taken out of context to push a specific QAnon-related agenda during a July and August 2020 spate of child trafficking rumors. In proper context, Oprah referenced her own experiences as a child subjected to sexual abuse; based on that experience, she described feeling “complicit,” and said that if an abuser is “any good,” they will make a child believe that they were “part of” the abuse. Her comments very clearly described the confusion that children feel when a trusted adult engages in secretive abuse, but elided portions demonstrate Oprah was speaking of her own experience as a child subjected to such experiences.