Shame on Oprah

By Bree Walker

I don’t usually watch her;  she makes me uncomfortable in her ‘know it all but pretend to be humble’ persona on TV.    Now I know why.

Oprah is apparently,  a  disa-phobe.   Phony in  her ‘magnanimous mom’ way of acting like she’s cool with physical anomaly.

Maybe she’s only comfortable  with her own physical bag, the ‘large lady’ thing she truly DOES embrace. Then again, HOW many diets has she  hyped?  See the inconsistency here?

I wouldn’t even bother except that this is the  20th anniversary of the  passage of the  A.D.A,  The Americans  With Disabilities Act.   Not  exactly a good time  to be inquiring  of a new mom “Does he have all his fingers and toes?”  as  she did  just the other day on live TV, when a woman  in the audience was rushed to the hospital with a preemie baby unexpectedly announcing his arrival.

The FIRST words out of Oprah’s mouth were ‘Does he have all his  fingers and toes?”

I repeat this because I want to make myself clear on one thing on this auspicious occasion of remembering and honoring the re- authorization of a very big and important aspect of the original Civil Rights Act of 1964.  That the way we either choose to dignify diversity or  point it out as a ‘concern’ is a major part of the intent of the  A.D.A, passed  into law this week in  1990.

Yes, that’s right, the ADA is nothing more (nothing LESS!)  than a  reminder and  re- enervation  of that  most important legislation which put  ‘Equality’ and ‘American’ in the history books together.  But it was a necessary reframing of an issue that had become the ‘bastard child’ of the Civil Rights Movement.   True, People of  Color (Oprah?)  were the main issue, but a lesser known and therefore lesser enforced chunk of  that incredible legislation was intended to protect those of us who have  unconventional bodies.   The A.D.A had grown necessary because too many employers and  builders were simply ignoring the needs of the one in ten of us who have  unique talents.  I mean, special needs.

The sad truth was that, for decades in post industrialist/ public school America,  a person who used a wheelchair or needed extra time to complete typing class (like me, who wasn’t even allowed  to be in that class in the first place) would be ignored or excluded from  ordinary life activities and  employment  simply because our handicaps (icky word, I know) were perceived as being inconvenient  or  expensive to accommodate.

By re enforcing that smaller part of The Civil  Rights Act, we disparate and diverse ‘freaks of nature’ ( I say this with tongue in cheek and a loving heart), had our Day of  Recognition.  Because I and my then husband and co anchor at KCBS Los Angeles,  Jim Lampley, had worked hard to help create awareness for the A.D.A, we were invited to D.C. to receive the Bob Dole Foundation Award  as  way to say thanks for our efforts. It was a moment I will never forget, and one I WISH Oprah would remember.

I met Oprah a long time ago,  when I was invited to be on her show, covering a topic she seemed to like discussing ,before all that glam thing happened to her. This was the Old Oprah.  Her empathy on that episode was real;   I felt it.  This ‘old Oprah’ is the one I choose to remember.

Count my fingers and toes, and my children’s fingers and toes as whole and human.  No newborn should be subjected to  ‘digitizing’ baby body parts as ‘proof’ he or she is okay. Shame on you, Oprah!


31 Comments to “Shame on Oprah”

  1. Marina Says:

    All I have to say is that you deserve the congressional medal of honor for your humanitarian efforts. YOU are truly a HERO! I am so disgusted at Oprah’s behavior, I wish this story was top news so the world could see what an endorsement opportunist she really is -and how sad it is that her behavior is somehow mistaken as philanthropy. You are THE REAL DEAL, my dear, and you are beautiful & wonderful & purely inspirational!

  2. Dylan Brody Says:

    Very well put together, very well said and beautifully turned at the end. Yet one more reason to think you’re wonderful.

  3. Prescott Auburn Says:

    Thank you so much for this. I have been a fan since I first saw you on the local San Diego News. I had grown up in Hollywood, where the cliches of superficial beauty were too painfully true. At one point, before I moved to S.D. I aquired a scar on my lip, that people perceived as a cleft palette, another genetic difficulty folks deal with. I learned so much about people’s inner beauty as they could look right at it, and make me FEEL beautiful. As watching you succeed, as always done. Thank You.

  4. Juliet Marovich Says:

    Thank you so much for all you have done. You are an amazing person and one hell of a report. We, viwers, miss you back here in San Diego. I just so value your write this peice.

  5. cain Says:

    I was born the same as Bree and believe me all what she says on the subject, she’s right. Everyday we have to endure people like Oprah and the general public. The one’s that don’t do us any favours are the celebs who patronise us for their own ends/gains, even if from different cultures (me UK). Keep up the fight Bree x

  6. Robert Says:

    We have become so rich we can afford to ruin ourselves. Oprah is just one of the countless ruined hearts in our society. The real hearts get fewer these days. I know what it is like to be cast aside but such stories need another place. I like your writing. And you and your children are always welcome in my heart. My world hasn’t much but my heart is open.

  7. Lucy Says:

    I met a little boy on the weekend who had Ectrodactyly, he was happy and playing. None of the other children took any notice of his hands or feet, or that he was different in any way. As a rehabilitation doctor I was looking at how functional his hands were and his mum said his only problem was keeping up with his twin brother when they were climbing things. Anyway, I was just hoping that his generation will grow up to see people as simply other people, regardless of physical differences.
    Lucy, Sydney, Australia

  8. bob Says:

    Loved watching you here in SanDiego you go lady

  9. Antdog Says:

    Is everybody forgetting that worked in LA too. I believe it was CBS. Bree I’ve always thought you were & still are a beatiful woman .

  10. Antdog Says:

    Is everybody forgetting that you worked in LA too. I believe it was CBS. Bree I’ve always thought you were & still are a beatiful woman .

  11. Jane Zinke (jane) Says:

    My husband still misses you on TV in San Diego. Today he asked about you, so that’s why I’m here.

    Also my hands are red and peeling from psoriasis and so many people ask me what it is that I feel for you Bree. Our hands aren’t THAT bad. We can’t hide them and we are not contagious.

    No matter what’s strange in one’s appearance, SO WHAT!

  12. kimberly brown Says:

    hi i too was born with ectrodactyly which means i have 3 fingers on both hands and 2 toes on both feet and im proud of myself i love my hands and feet and i always will, yes i have been called names in the past but i finally got tired of it and told them GOD made me this way and im happy and theres nothing you can do or say to change that so deal with it and i’ve never been teased after that and now a days nobody even notices my hands and feet unless im talking about them or i put my hands on the table when im drawing and even then they ask me a few questions about it and i love answering them and after that its like the best feeling ever and i have NEVER hid my hands away from people i want them to see them so that they can see that just because i have less fingers and toes than you doesnt mean i cant do the same things as you can you and your kids are my inspiration and i thanks you guys every day as well as god :)

  13. Invisible_Jester89 Says:

    I met a person once with the same condition as you, Bree, and didn’t even notice it until she brought it up. I also have a close friend who is blind, though I haven’t spoken to him in a while.

    Until people learn to be physiology-blind as well as colorblind, we’re never going to realize that people are just people.

  14. Kim Says:

    Hello, I just wanted to say that my daughter was born with EEC and when she was born I didn’t know anyone with this condition, my mom saw Bree on the Today show and told me about her. I called up the news station and left her a message and sure enough she called me back.. She was so sweet and really helped us through that tough time in the beginning,I was so worried she wouldn’t get invited to a dance much less married to a wonderful man!!! But Bree assured me she would.. Today my daughter is married and expecting her first baby!!! TY I would love to touch base with you sometime… And as far as Oprah goes well lets just say she hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting someone with EEC because in my opinion all of the ones I have come into contact with are super awesome people. GL to you all


    CMON, Bree … a little “testy”, are we …. “does he have all his fingers and toes” is the colloquial short form for, “Is the baby healthy” or “Is everything okay”?

    We are only responsible for the INTENT of our words and, to suggest that OPRAH’s intended to denigrate those with disabilities by her innocent show of concern for a newborn’s health grossly twists and misinterprets the true intent of her statement. Also, your somewhat “catty” comments about her weight say absolutely NOTHING about her but certainly makes a statement about you.

  16. Kevin McKinnon Says:

    I get tired of people being so touchy about words like “normal”. People are afraid to make mention of anything different about people today for fear of people like you. I normally don’t care for Oprah, but I agree with her here. I want babies to be born with a “normal” body if possible, for their own sake. But to have a birth defect, or other similar problem, is not normal by the very definition of the word. However, it is nothing to hold against anyone as it doesn’t make anyone better or worse than anyone else. However, without your protests, you probably wouldn’t be in the news so much with so much attention.

    By the way, I’m missing my right leg above the knee. I’m not ashamed of it, but it is not normal to have just one leg.

  17. Staci Pelayo Says:

    I’m not physically challenged, however I do have several learning disabilities and I too have had to overcome obstacles. However, the strange thing is I came on this site to see what happened to Bree Walker?? I remember watching you on the news. Then I read your blog. Interesting to say the least. Does he have all his fingers and toes is just a saying used years ago. I’m sure she didn’t mean it in the way you are taking it. I don’t even watch Oprah but I can say that people read way to much into things. It’s called figurative language. People used to say that to mean is the child health or not. Oprah is an older woman and I’m sure she didn’t mean it literally. Everyone’s first wish is to have a healthy child. It’s a fact. However, as a school teacher I teach all my students to accept all diversities in all people. I also teach NOT TAKE IT PERSONAL.

  18. Lin Says:

    Kudo’s MICHAEL PATRICK, my thoughts exactly. Based on Oprah’s history, I see no reason to suspect malice…. can we allow her some humanity and not expect her to make certain everything she says is “politically correct”? Sorry Bree but it seems you are over-sensitive regarding your condition…

  19. Belle Kneller Says:

    I agree with Staci. What Oprah said is just an old saying, meaning “is he healthy?” and nothing more.

  20. Jane Says:

    Not an Oprah lover but the fingers and toes statement has been around forever. It makes you sound petty to call someone out on such a benign statement. Also, if someone doesn’t have all their fingers and toes do we pretend they do, or do we acknowledge it and move on working with what we got. At that point, the Disability Act becomes relevant.

  21. Elsie Morgan Says:

    Everything Oprah did or does relates to money. And that means she does not closely come close to doing anything in this country regarding peopl of color. Looking at how many people she has made successful by helping them get their own shows, Dr Phil, Rachael Ray, Dr Oz. Restauranteurs she promotes frequent have become high end places because he praised them. Cooks she has hired who became authors, were all non-blacks. They have all been worthy of applause, but so would African Americans in the same professions. Her entire staff of over 300 people,were mostly Caucasion,And she paid the travel expenses for them all to take a cruise. Her aid to a concentration of black people was in far off Africa. And it floors me that she did nothing for her own people here in the USA. Her magazine (that I stopped ordering,) has nothing most people in my community relates to, and yet it is,supposidly, a magazine for ALL women. To say the least, the only African Americans she is close to, are those “no darker than a brown paper bag,” as the saying goes. She seems to have a plantation mentality, in that respect. Where darker slaves worked in the field, and lighter ones in the Mansion. She does have serious problems accepting her own blackness. Now that she is not in a position to give cars, and other expensive gifts, her core audience has abandoned her. She is now trying to reach out and bring the black community into her radar field, to save her from failing to have a successful network of her own. Someone need to tell her it is too late for that, And, you know what, I think I just have… come to think of it. hmm

  22. APRIL D. BROWN Says:

    as a young journalism student, back in the day 80′s. i watched bree walker do the news, i admired her along with jessica savage. i never followed my dream of becoming a reporter, because i never got help with reading backwards. anyway i just wanted to tell everyone that my family always ask if a newborn has all his fingers and toes. it’s just a saying. i only wish i had the love and support that bree and oprah have.

  23. LaToya Baber Says:

    On personal note I admire you as a person who chooses to not let their disability define them but in fact you embrace it as normal. Being a first time mom I was so very excited and overjoyed the day I gave birth to my son this past March of 2013. I literally cried tears of joy on last push to bring him into this world. Being a mom such as yourself I know you understand that you just want the best for your child and you are willing to do anything to see that happen for your children. You having the ability to cope with the disability Ectrodactyly is one thing right, but with your children having the same disability as well I admire you even more for your strength. When my child was brought to me after delivery I too (selfish) thought he is fine crying loud and has all fingers and toes. But I was wrong my son too has Ectrodactyly and the very first thing doctors asked me was did I know? I started to feel like I had done something wrong for my child to be have born this way. My happy moment began to fade away until a doctor on staff approached me and told me their was another doctor on staff who only had only two fingers too on his hand and he was a surgeon. At that moment I began to feel some hope for myself and how I could raise my son in this world to still be successful despite his disability. But from time to time I feel a bit sad about his adbormality because we live in a world where when we are physically different we are treated different. I just want my son to remain happy as he is and I want to be his biggest supporter and advocate for his disability. I personally want to know how were and are you able to cope with your and your children’s physical differences? Could you give me advice on maybe support groups and activities I could introduce to my son. As I do not want to limit him on anything growing up.

    I thank you in advance and god bless you on your journey.

    -La’ Toya Baber

  24. DesertMom Says:

    Bree, your thrashing of Oprah on the “fingers and toes” thing is unfair. This is a comment made by all, all over the world, and it really doesn’t even relate to literal fingers and toes. It’s just another way of asking is the baby alive and healthy. It’s a light-hearted statement. I have two children with disabilities and I’m sensitive to things like this as well. But, I doubt Oprah meant what you think she meant. Also, Oprah has done so much to help other people in many ways. She could have taken her money 15 years ago and faded into the sunset. Instead, she spends her life and her own personal money helping others so that we can have a better society. It amazes me that some think that’s selfish. Anyway, I wish you well. Thank you.

  25. David La Fevre Says:

    Great post. Oprah is too rich, she is way out of touch with reality.

  26. Michele Says:

    Sounds like jealousy on Bree’s part. Don’t blame that person because she did what she wanted to do and tell the truth do it. People can’t handle it when others tell the truth.

  27. Douglas Says:

    While your point is valid about the comment feeling as if it’s excluding a big percentage of the population, there seems to be an already established dislike for someone who has done way more good than bad. I would hope my child had ten fingers and ten toes too. I would love him or her just as much if they didn’t, but it’s not a cruel thing to hoipe for, because as you pointed out yourself, there would be fewer challenges to face.

  28. Colleen Wick Says:

    Remember, Oprah’s real name is Orprah which was in the book of Ruth and after her husband died, she went back to her people and her “gods” just like Orprah in the secret. She is one strange lady

  29. Sandra Davis Says:

    Oprah is a bigoted and pretentious rich person. She pretends to care about people less fortunate than her. I agree with the previous poster–she is one very strange lady.

  30. Kathleen Says:

    Dear Bree, I am sad to learn of your unfortunate DUI. Hope you and your dog are now safe and well. We all have made poor choices in our lives. Unfortunately, for people who have chosen careers in the public eye, such as yourself, some of your poor choices get to become internet news. That is exactly how I found out about your DUI. It is because of your poor choice, that I also got to learn about your shaming of Oprah. I’m so sorry about your birth defect Bree. The expression “does he/she have all their fingers and toes,” is a very old and widely used expression. I have heard people say it many, many times. I suspect that it has legitimate origins, but I do not know what they are; just that a lot of old expressions have some sad origins. Like the song Ring Around The Rosie, which was a reference to physical manifestations of the Bubonic Plague – yet children are still taught that song as a cute nursery rhyme! Like you Bree, Oprah is a “public person” so when a seemingly harmless, knee-jerk reaction comment comes out of her mouth; a comment made by many people every day; with no intentions of offense or insensitivity meant to anyone; it evidently has more impact – at least to you. I highly doubt that Oprah meant to be insensitive to you or anyone else with your physical stature. While Oprah has been very successful; she is still also a human being like you, and the rest of us. Seems like if you were really concerned about Oprah making a comment that so many other people make every day; you would have contacted Oprah directly, and talked with her about it. Who knows; Oprah might have brought you on her show to shed some much needed light on the subject! Instead, all you really accomplished by shaming her, was to ignite some nasty words from people and get a small amount of attention. I bet that if you were to try to contact Oprah even now; she would talk with you and maybe do a show on not only your physical challenges; but also include the humanness of being a celebrity and having your life under a microscope, and perhaps reassure all of us out here that you are vulnerable to the same problems and issues that we all are. I think this would be a great show with a huge audience! Humanity is starved for forgiveness – and Oprah is a champion of humility and forgiveness who graciously admits her own imperfections and shortcomings. I hope you do this Bree. I will look for this show coming up and I wish you and your precious dog all the best! With Sincere Love and Warmth,
    Kathleen Iceberg

  31. Alauda Arvensis Says:

    Thank-you, Kathleen, for writing the letter that —essentially— I was going to write.

    Love, compassion, and understanding to Bree and the others who have written here.

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