Oprahcide or Death By Oprah. Is it possible?

by Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

Einstein is credited with saying, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

I do not claim to be an Einstein. Still, I question things.

I admit to sometimes wondering why people stick with failing approaches.

Einstein is credited with having offered this definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I occasionally watch Oprah. Sometimes clients and clients-to-be bring me tapes of her shows re: weight loss and fitness. Sometimes when requested by someone, I see the late night rerun of a same day show when there is a fitness or weight loss segment they want me to check out.

I see Oprah. She is big. She is fat. She is an absolute failure at weight loss and likely fitness, too. She has a long history of fitness and weight control failures.

Yet she provides advice on both and determines who will provide advice on these matters to millions of viewers of her TV shows, listeners of her radio programs and readers of her magazine.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Einstein is credited with having said this, too.

These days she has anointed a new guru. Two actually. Well, really one and one-half.

Oz (as Mr. Roarke) is one and Roizen (as Tatoo) is the half.

These guys are supposed to be MDs. I say supposed since Oprah has problems vetting her guests, e.g., James Frey.

Further, she may have a somewhat less than savory relationship with the truth. You will have a chance to decide this later in the rant.

For now, I will assume they are MDs.

Roarke and Tatoo, did this show on dieting. They seem to be of the opinion that such things as knowing one’s weight, waist size, cholesterol and blood pressure are keys to losing weight.

I think they are wrong (certainly about the last three, possibly about the first). That is my opinion.

I think that knowing that stuff is anything but key to weight loss. I think they are, in many respects, irrelevant to the matter.

Plus, their advice lacked consistency, coherence and integrity. Otherwise it might have been useful.

I think these people should, and hopefully will, be relocated to the brimming waste bin of Oprah’s diet advice givers.

Of course, it only takes one to Phil that trash can since the diet advice givers Oprah tends to support are overweight.

While musing on this topic, I began to wander to another.

Why is it that Oprah persists/persisted in pushing gurus like her trainer (who cannot train her) Bob Greene, fat defendant Phil McGraw and fabricators of a Yale endorsement like Jorge Cruise and David Katz (my opinion and apparently Yale’s, too), when none of their programs have worked for her?

Fact is, Oprah remains big and fat. Right?

She must be savvy enough to understand how to use a mirror. She must be smart enough to realize that she is bigger than the average bear. She ought to know her experts have failed her.

As a billionaire, she certainly has the resources to find a diet/fitness guru who looks it and is honest.

She sets herself up as the judge of who makes it into our homes, eyes, ears and minds with their advice and she claims that the gurus she displays to us are experts. Yet, they have failed her.

To me, this seemed like a disconnect.

So why does she do it? Why does she promote failures to lead us to the same weight loss/fitness success they and she have achieved?

Could there be a “hidden agenda” behind her support of these people? Could there be a conflict of interests preventing her from jettisoning them?

You decide.

The following is from http://www.kalanienglish.com/news_mauinews_020427b.html, the official website “of Hawai'i State Senator J. Kalani English”:

Oprah, trainer buy land in Hana
They purchase ranch land, plan to build 3 houses near Hamoa Bay and at Lehoula

The Maui News

April 27, 2002
Staff Writer

HANA — Television host Oprah Winfrey and her friend and trainer Bob Greene are buying seven shoreline lots from Hana Ranch in the vicinity of Hamoa Bay and at Lehoula…

This is from http://chicago.about.com/b/a/100926.htm. About, Inc. is “part of The New York Times Company”:

Bob Greene, Oprah's personal trainer, is not as well known as Dr. Phil, but then Dr. Phil is not really an "Oprah friend" as much as a business partner. Bob Greene, on the other hand, seems to be an Oprah "business partner/employee/friend" all rolled into one.

Like Dr. Phil, who managed to morph his appearances in The Oprah Winfrey Show into an incredibly successful show of his own, Bob Greene, too, has turned his friendship with Oprah into fame.

Here's how:

Bob Greene's first exercise and diet book, Make the Connection, listed Oprah as co-author (Oprah provided the "inspirational thoughts"). It was a great move for both. Oprah became an author and Bob Greene got the kind of book promotion he would never have received anywhere else.

Like with her other friends, the Oprah.com site has lots of pages on Bob Greene. There's diet and exercise advice from Bob, and his other books, such as Bob Greene's Total Body Make Over are prominently promoted there.

And that's not all. Like with Gayle King, Bob Greene has been brought into the "Oprah Orbit." He went from being "Oprah's personal trainer" to being "Oprah's property manager," so in addition to his book revenue income, he is part of the Oprah Empire.

Why is Bob Greene Oprah's property manager? Well, for one thing, it was Bob Greene who first introduced Oprah to Hawaii. Bob had been going to Hawaii for fifteen years and scouting places where to buy land. When he finally found a place he liked, he convinced Oprah to buy a home there…

Still not convinced Bob Greene and Oprah are good friends? Even though Oprah has never confirmed this, newspaper accounts say that Bob Greene and Oprah have bought some expensive Hawaiian land together and have plans to develop it for commercial use. To me, that cinches it. I really don't think Oprah would go into real estate deals with someone she didn't trust and feel close to.

UPDATE: On Sep 13, 2006, Harpo Radio, Inc. sent out a press release letting people know that Bob Greene was joining Oprah Winfrey as an on-air host of XM Satellite Radio's Oprah & Friends show, which was set to debut September 25, 2006, on XM channel 156.

If the above is true, that would explain why she cannot make these fitness failures go away. She is in bed with them financially and personally.

They make the bucks. The public gets screwed.

I am unaware of her routinely informing her audiences of this before introducing these folks and letting the audience then decide if there is a conflict of interests.

This explains Bob and Phil. What about Katz and Cruise?

If you go read the CACAs I awarded Cruise, you will find that he and Katz apparently fabricated the Yale endorsement they used to promote their 3-Hour Diet scheme. At least that is my reasonable inference from the letter I received from Yale and which appears in the CACA. (This is also the letter from Yale referred to in the letter below.)

It is not as if Oprah was or should not have been aware of this.

Below is the text of a letter I sent to Oprah’s people:

Dear ,

You, Oprah, her viewers and fans have been the victims of a significant misrepresentation, in my opinion.

Jorge Cruise, a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, explicitly associates himself with Oprah both on-line and in his written material.

He has been promoting his 3-Hour Diet scheme as “Yale University endorsed.”

Please see the enclosed letter from Yale.

Further, in my opinion, there are other substantial and significant mistakes and misrepresentations on his website.  Details are available at:


Just click on the “The CACA - The Confused and Confounded Award” link.

Thank you.

Specifically, copies of this letter were sent on December 08, 2005 to:

Ms. Jill Adams
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Mr. Tim Bennett
Harpo, Inc.

Ms. Amy Coleman
Senior Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Katy Murphy Davis
Senior Supervising Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Mr. Ray Dotch
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Lisa Halliday
Director of Communications
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Mr. Jim Kelley
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Lesia Minor
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Ellen Rakieten
Executive Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Dana Brooks Reinglass
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Jennifer Stamper
Senior Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Dana Newton Utigard
Senior Supervising Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show

Ms. Andrea Wishom
The Oprah Winfrey Show

One week later, December 15, 2005, I followed-up with the following letter to Oprah:

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I am frequently asked by clients and potential clients to respond to fitness advice they have received from the “experts” appearing on your show.  “Experts” the caliber of Jorge Cruise about whom I contacted your producers and Mr. Bennett one week ago.

With rare exception, I am unable to find any scientific basis to the advice.  Quite to the contrary, the advice, if followed, will only result in time lost, money wasted and continuing unfitness.

Unfitness is a problem that siphons resources from sick care, social services, civic projects, etc.  Without applying solutions based in fact, it will remain out of control.  You are uniquely situated to disseminate information about what a person really needs to do to become fitter, i.e., improve the quality of life.

I am asking permission to teach your staff a course in fitness.  I will instruct them in the handful of proven scientific principles upon which any successful fitness program (i.e., weight management, aerobic conditioning and anaerobic conditioning) must be built.  Attendees will learn how to analyze a fitness plan or product and determine if it can work or if it is hokum 

Armed with this knowledge, the good that you and those around you can do will be potentiated.

Thank you.

CC: Mr. Tim Bennett and Ms. Ellen Rakieten

All letters were sent on letterhead so contact info was made available. No responsive contact was made. No letters were returned to me so I assume they were received.

I get that it is not necessary for Oprah or her people get back in touch with me.

What I do not get is despite their seemingly clear subterfuge and bad science (see my CACAs), Oprah continues to use, support and promote these fellows. (For example, see August 2006 O magazine.)

The question is “Why?”

I do not know for a fact.

Here is a possibility.

Oprah is unwilling to admit to another example of poor vetting. If you string enough of these together, her image of credibility might suffer. (I am not saying that she is credible, I am only saying that she has the appearance of credibility and that is something she is unwilling to risk.)

Appearance is everything.

Oprah was all huffy when she took on James Frey. It is easy to admonish this guy and, in the process, make herself look both the victim and the hero. It is also a fairly harmless error for which she would likely not be liable. Maybe she really did not know.

But in this instance, things are a bit different. She almost certainly knows or should have known and yet she did nothing to separate herself from the apparent perpetrators.

Why would she not come forward and renounce those associated with her and plead mea culpa?

Is it possible that her downside in this matter could be greater? Suppose the error is not so harmless. And she knew of it. Is she hiding it hoping no one will notice?

I do not know.

You decide.

In Illinois, the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (CFDBPA) 815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. and the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA) 815 ILCS 510/1 et seq. allow for private causes of action by consumers. Misrepresentations of a seller's or product's approval, affiliation or endorsement or as to the nature of the seller or manufacturer are considered deceptive practices for which one can be held liable.

It is likely that other states have similar statutes which may also cover misrepresentations of endorsements.

Could Oprah be open to legal liability? If so, there may be a lot of people who were induced into following this diet scheme and failed.

I firmly believe that Cruise’s and Katz’s diet program will fail most people. I think that failed dieting from ill-conceived diet programs kills.

That is another possible reason why she has not distanced herself from Katz and Cruise. She cannot let the cat out of the bag and thinks that if she does not come forward, it will remain below the radar.

This is where the Oprahcide comes into play.

Is it possible that Oprah, through potential cover-up, neglect or what have you is shortening people's lives?

I think so, since bad diet advice is a killer. And she is the biggest (no pun intended) disseminator of diet advice of whom I am aware. She can harm millions in a single shot. I think she does harm many.

Oprah as possibly shortening lives and knowingly covering up for the misdeeds of others – probably not the appearance she wants to cultivate or even have suggested as possibility.

Appearance is everything.

Yet, this is one possibility. There are others.

Maybe it is all innocent.

To my way of thinking and my opinion, there is no innocence to it. But that is just me and that is just an opinion.

It is for you to decide for yourself if these relationships and behaviors, especially about matters which these experts clearly state affect your health, are savory.

And deadly.