Oprah Winfrey Catches Heat Over India Episode of Oprah's Next Chapter

Indian journalists claim she represented a distorted view of the country.

Posted: 07/25/2012 10:00 AM EDT
Oprah Winfrey

Did Oprah Winfrey inadvertently insult a billion people?


Several journalists from India have strong words for the media mogul, who filmed an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter in the country earlier this year, claiming Winfrey presented a distorted and one-sided view of the country to her audience.

Winfrey especially caught heat for a comment she made while dining with a traditional, upper-class joint family: "I heard some Indian people still eat with their hands?"

Shadow and Act collected some of the reactions from various media outlets in India:

"Oprah, your comment about eating with the hand is really not that big a deal to us; we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country. But as a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework," a journalist from CNN IBN, India's leading news channel, blasted on the channel's website. "Using our hands to eat is a well established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it. A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that.”

Another writer called the episode “myopic, unaware, ignorant and gauche. This was Middle America at its best worst.”


The same writer was even more insulted by another segment of the show, in which Winfrey paid a visit to Mumbai's infamous slums:


“And the slum is where Oprah’s 'oh-my-god-how wonderfully-pathetically-quaint-to-be-so-poor' avatar stepped out in full glory. She did look for a shower head in the toilet and seem amazed to hear they bathed with a bucket. And she marveled at how all their clothes fit onto a small shelf. She pointedly avoided any mention of the massive LCD TV which adorned their wall. That would have killed the sob story."


Winfrey spent two weeks in India, her first time ever in the Asian subcontinent, during which time she enjoyed a range of experiences including partying with Bollywood stars, wrapping herself in a traditional sari and chatting with women about marriage, sex and the challenges of being female in the largely conservative country.

While those who criticize Winfrey have a bigger-than-average platform, the vast majority of citizens welcomed her visit. The Oprah Winfrey Show is hugely popular in India and Winfrey has long held a fascination with the country.


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