March 17, 2010

Defamation suit against Oprah Winfrey set for trial

Posted: 07:58 AM ET

A jury will decide whether Oprah Winfrey defamed the former headmistress of her South African girls school when talking about an abuse scandal in 2007, a federal judge ruled.

A trial is set to begin on March 29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the defamation lawsuit filed by Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane against the talk show host and her production company, Harpo.

"Oprah and Harpo await the opportunity to present the case in court," Winfrey's lawyer, Chip Babcock, said Tuesday.

Mzamane was immediately suspended and later fired after several students at Winfrey's South African leadership academy complained about abuse. A dorm mother was later charged with abusing and assaulting students.

The lawsuit contends that Winfrey's statements at a private meeting with parents - which later became public - and at a news conference defamed the headmistress by implying she knew of the abuse and covered it up.

Mzamane claims the abuse complaints were never brought to her and that Winfrey never let her explain.

"Instead Winfrey elected to forego the option of questioning Plaintiff directly as to her knowledge of the abusive conduct and published statements which arguably created the impression that Plaintiff did in fact have some level of involvement in the Dorm Parents misconduct," the suit said.

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Filed under: Oprah Winfrey

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Eddie   March 17th, 2010 10:32 am ET

Trying to earn some money.........Everyone tries to jump on the band wagon if they think they have a case...And there are enough supporters to ralley around her........Another foul play from people who don't know...but take sides and pass judgement just because.......

MzNomerNAzona   March 17th, 2010 10:46 am ET

Oprah Winfrey is self serving and it is obvious she threw the lady under the bus so she could save her precious pr...I can't stand Oprah Winfrey. I am so over her and her 'influence' and her spin on herself. Ever since she confronted James Frey on her show in order to crucify him to aggrandise herself i have been over her.

She should retire. The world is not a better place because Oprah is promoting herself constantly.

Cajazz76:24:8   March 17th, 2010 12:07 pm ET

With money comes power, with that power comes the false sense your in the seat of Judge, jury and executioner. Something's are best left to those who are in the proper realm in society to legally adjudicate. The media is definitely not the forum.

The only way to get their attention is to bring suit and, if guilty, pay the price. If guilty, Oprah will feel her punishment, not monetarily, but with embarrassment, the self imposed penalty. Oprah is a good person and we all make error's in judgement.

This is just a constant learning curve we all endure throughout our lives. In medical jargon we all, at times, are afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth and impotence of the brain and obesity of the derriere. In laymen's terms the ass overloading the brain and the mouth alway's running, just like we do in these blog's...

Cajazz76:24:8   March 17th, 2010 12:47 pm ET

@MzNomer NAzona

I vaguely remember the tiff about the James Frey interview on Oprah. If I recall she called him out on the validity of the statement's he made in his fact/fiction book..Million Little Pieces, or whatever it was called.

He used real people's names and admittedly lied about their demise's, his own participation to the fact's, and a reasonable congruence of his assessment's certainly appeared he was not one to be held in any higher light than he was shown in.

Kudos to Oprah for that. A jury of her peer's, and I doubt it will ever reach that point, would assess her equally. You should be so honorable to allow her that opportunity. It appear's you threw her under the bus...your judgement premature..your maturity in question.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 1:06 pm ET

It's interesting that you mention James Frey. I saw Oprah's program the day she confronted him, and I, too, was completely surprised by the way she crucified him. It came across as though she was trying to satisfy those who encouraged her to do so; consequently carried it too far as though she was judge and jury. She would never had done that had she not selected the book for her book club. She it really was about her big ego. She could have been respectful and credit is due him for his willingness to appear on the show.

Interestingly, she apologized to him later but that apology did not receive much press and perhaps was too late.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 1:09 pm ET

Sorry about grammar; should have proofread since spellcheck didn't catch it. Should have said: She would never HAVE done that.........SO it was really about.....

luckybee   March 17th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

This is an Afrikan affairs and is not my bussiness.

Geri   March 17th, 2010 2:17 pm ET

What would you have her do – silently fire the woman and let the abusive experience of those students stand? This is all about money – just as the TX beef trial was. If the statements made to the parents was made public, shame on whoever spilled it to the press, yet the press is some hungry to be spilling the 'news' for pay – never mind who it hurts, or if it is even true.

Frey used her platform to sell a million books based on information that was not true. She had every right to chastise him as she stands for integrity and his fraud deserved to be noted.

Oprah has brought issues to the awareness of our population that has advanced causes, raised the consciousness of the nation and beyond. I don't know a single individual who has raised the level of television in the manner she has.

For those who don't like her – keep watching Jerry Springer.

Ted   March 17th, 2010 2:38 pm ET

Does the headmaster belong to any catholic order and have the blessing of the pope?
Oprah does a lot of good, so judge her on her merits.

Mike   March 17th, 2010 2:42 pm ET

As a Black man, I know exactly what Oprah Winfrey is ( plus I went to school with her ) she's a dyke with to much money and very little talent white women like her because she reminds them of "mammy" the big

black women whom is loyal, fierce and dedicated to serving "Miss. Ella" the always understanding black women who understands all of Ms, White ladies problem's
like the maid in "Gone With The Wind" the Hattie Mc Daniels character

we call her the richest "Aunt Jemima" ever !!

. Obama must love her, without her he would have never been elected.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 2:43 pm ET

Jo Geri, James Frey did not use Oprah. She selected the book for her book club; he did not force her to select it. She makes those decisions herself. As you know, no on tells Oprah what to do. Criminals on trial receive more respectful treatment than she gave Frey.
Why watch Jerry Springer? It's the same as watching Oprah.

Dodie   March 17th, 2010 2:47 pm ET

@ Chris and MzNomerNAzona

Oprah was understandably upset because she and the entire crew at Harpo productions had read his emotionally charged book and became victims of its impact. Oprah had Frey on her show supporting and backing his book which resulted in millions sold. After the investigation when Oprah obtained the truth regarding this author's purposefully deceiving everyone, is when she brought him back on her show.

Oprah wanted to expose him. Oprah felt an obligation to her audience and did not want them fall victim to his lies! In essence, she acknowledge she, too, can be fooled and also vulnerable......

Cajazz76:24:8   March 17th, 2010 3:48 pm ET


What's the matter angry black man? Oprah dissed you for a dance with a debutante...and you felt taunted?..You need a bit of the white knocked off you and smell the cream.. No one has done more for the Black people of the world than Oprah...and many other's, as well. Sure no one is perfect, but why kick someone who has as big a heart as she does. She made her fortune legimately and million's are envious...and Mike I am a white male and am more than willing to applaud her and anyone like her, if I could find them to applaud. She is one in million's with billion's...quit being so narrow-minded.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 5:02 pm ET

I know the full story. The only thing I have a problem with is the way she confronted him when he was on the show. As I suggested earlier, a criminal being interrogated by officers would have been handled with more dignity. He had already been exposed when she brought him back to the show; people at that time knew the facts in the book had been skewed and it had been talked about on the program. She knew she handled it inappropriately which is why she later apologized to him.

A. Smith, Oregon   March 17th, 2010 5:24 pm ET

The head mistress' who Oprah directly blamed and called out for troubles at the school for young African girls that Oprah helped setup, has a strong case of defamation and Oprah should settle for the 40 million dollars being asked or whatever less that the head mistress' is willing to take. What's 40 million for Oprah? I can't imagine Oprah not settling out of court for a large sum of cash and with her patented hush contract on the plaintiff to place and silent this mistake behind her.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 5:41 pm ET

@A. Smith,
I agree; settling might save her some negative PR if the case goes to trial.

LacrosseMom   March 17th, 2010 10:21 pm ET

Wow.... there is a lot of hate here for someone none of you know. This angst against Oprah Winfrey started enforce when she publicly supported President Obama. Prior to that, everyone loved her! Or at least did not hate her.

What's with the hate? When people react so negatively towards another, its usually jealousy.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, even the hateful comments. Even Oprah has a right to speak. Don't like her? Don't watch her show.

We need some civility in our Nation, we are becoming more hateful and mean by the day. Take a deep breathe and relax. Peace to everyone!

Chuck   March 17th, 2010 10:41 pm ET

Actually you are filled with a fair amount of hatred. You routinely go after anyone who has a different opinion than you do.

You are way off base with your comment about her support of President Obama. Quite the opposite, actually. I think she was quite unfair with her attitude about Michael Jackson. Gee, if she settles this case out of court, shouldn't we assume that means she's guilty. Afterall, that was her assumption about MJ.

Does every opinion different than yours have to do with jealousy? If so, then I assume you are jealous of Republicans since you bash them routinely also.

And, yes, she was overbearing in her approach to James Frey.

Please be so kind to let others have opinions that are different than yours without your thinking you know their thoughts. "Peace to everyone" should mean allow others to have their say without others speaking for them.

Chuck   March 17th, 2010 10:52 pm ET

Jealousy has nothing to do with; don't put words and thoughts in people's minds.

She was overbearing with James Frey. And it has nothing to do with her support of President Obama. That is very suggestive but also funny, as it actually has to do also with her lack of support of Michael Jackson even after he was found innocent. So see, sometimes we are way off base with what we read into a comment.

Theresa   March 17th, 2010 10:52 pm ET

Oprah Winfrey was embarassed by James Frey that in my opinion was why she had back on her show...she wanted to get back @ him for deceiving her. She was not professional in that interview with him . She embarassed herself by phoning into Larry King's show when James Frey was his guest. She told Frey she stood by him & still supported him . Then when she found out the truth that she was duped by him ,she was aangry. I think she was more angry with herself that she was easily fooled. It bothered me when she was opening her 1st African school...yes,it was beautiful, we had to watch some of the interviews of the girls to qualify. She even had to show the d–n bedding. She made it such a rigorous process for the girls to get accepted. But then I heard she had someone interview the principal...if that's true ,,then she didn't do her job! That position is THE MOST imp't. Then she found out what she really was like. I don't care who you are....power changes personalities. One more thing....when Oprah supposedly gave all those cars away...everyone thought Oprah was giving them away. was the auto co.. At first the winners were still responsible for paying the taxes. Oprah knew the people that were getting the vehicles couldn't afford to buy their own, why did she think they could afford the taxes. I think eventually her co. paid the taxes because she got bad press re: that situation.

kathy 40   March 18th, 2010 8:56 am ET

@Chuck. I was an Oprah fan in the beginning when she was "REALLY" concerned about people's problems. But later on she changed, started glorifying herself, but still kept portraying herself as someone of integrity and honesty. No way, what she is doing these days is annoying people with all the CELIBRITIES problems, unfaithfulness, divorces, etc. I mean, who cares?
Oprah is also the reason why normal, every day people got so greedy they want to have all the luxury she so "graciously"promotes on her show. What turned me off was that interview with Michael Jackson in 1993 in which she embarassed him and tried to corner him about his "turning white". When he explained about the disorder you could notice clearly she did not believe him. That's when he got a little "testy" and asked her: What about all those people who sit in the sun to change their color". Then she asked him if he was still a virgin. That was the rudest thing. I loved the way Michael countered all her questions looking straight at her. She neglected MJ's passing on her site till after he was well and buried. Then she said she didn't know about vitiligo back then. What? She is such a hypocrite, telling people how sorry she was that she DID NOT BECOME HIS FRIEND back then and how he was very sympathetic and LIKEABLE. The very nerve of that woman. If she had spent sometime researching VITILIGO like GERALDO did she would have known he was saying the truth. Oprah is the reason MOST people did not believe him, because to them her word is THE GOSPEL. And the way she let MJ down during his trials is beyond words. She helped crucify him, not even wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. Bringing his ex-wife Lisa and her mother Priscilla on her show just to ridicule him and kick him down when he was having such a rough time. No to me Oprah is a selfconsumed, backpatting, devious person. And to those who say that Oprah did more for BLACK PEOPLE around world, they better get their facts right. NOT OPRAH, but MICHAEL JACKSON is the one who first broke won the barriers between BLACK and WHITE. If it weren't for him neither OPRAH nor OBAMA would be were they are today.

Sandy   March 18th, 2010 10:01 am ET

@kathy 40,
Well said. I saw everything you reference. Then she said she didn't attend MJ's funeral. Her ego would not allow her to say she was not invited.

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