Oprah denies White House ambitions even as the buzz grows louder

Minutes after giving a rousing speech at the Golden Globes Awards that promised “a new day” for women, minorities and the downtrodden, Oprah Winfrey said she has no ambitions to run for president.

In a brief interview backstage at the event, Winfrey was told that “Oprah 2020” was circulating on Twitter, and asked whether she planned to run. “I don’t — I don’t,” the 63-year-old billionaire said.

The drumbeat was well underway. “She. Is. Running,” said John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine. “Oprah. 2020,” said Shaun King, the Black Lives Matter activist. The host of the Golden Globes, late-night comedian Seth Meyers, jokingly urged Winfrey to run in his opening monologue, noting that President Donald Trump had reportedly decided to make his bid for the office after he was the butt of Meyers’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011.

Winfrey, worth $3.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, made references to the sexual harassment scandal in Hollywood and marked the recent death of Recy Taylor, whose sexual assault in 1944 became a focal point for civil rights activists, in her speech to accept the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement.

“I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” Winfrey said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again.”

Even with Winfrey’s denial to Bloomberg, the speculation is likely to continue. “It’s up to the people,” Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday when asked about a presidential run. “She would absolutely do it.”

CNN reported Monday that Winfrey is “actively thinking” about a presidential run, citing two of her friends that the network didn’t identify. One of the people said conversations on the topic date back several months, according to CNN.

Winfrey has long been a political figure and has had a front-row seat to presidential campaigns. After hearing Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, she brought him onto her show, befriended him and strongly supported both of his presidential bids.

Her voice periodically appears in national debates and she’s never shied away from the political arena.

As Democrats cast about for a political antidote to Trump, her appeal could be strong. Winfrey has an especially strong connection to women and non-whites and her personal fortune may go a long way toward financing a presidential campaign.

Speculation of Winfrey’s presidential ambitions had at least one tangible effect on Monday. Weight Watchers International Inc., which counts Winfrey as a board member, shareholder and endorser, surged as much as 11 percent to $52.07 in New York trading, the most in two months.