Oprah Responds to Rumors She Could Take Feinstein’s Senate Seat

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
May 26, 2023Updated: May 26, 2023

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey said through a spokesperson that she does not intend to replace the seat held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) if she steps down from office before her 2024 term ends.

This week, rumors and speculative reports emerged claiming that Winfrey, a longtime talk host worth billions, could be tapped to hold Feinstein’s seat ahead of the 2024 election. There has long been speculation that Winfrey could run for office but she’s repeatedly turned down those appeals.

In statements to multiple news outlets, a Winfrey spokesperson threw cold water on a California Senate run. “Oprah Winfrey is not considering the seat should it become vacant,” a spokesperson for Winfrey said.

A report from The Associated Press stated that California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has previously said he would try to appoint a black woman for Feinstein’s seat, could name Winfrey, who owns a home in Montecito, California. That report was entirely speculative and named no source.

Meanwhile, Winfrey has ruled out the possibility of running for office several times after some floated her as a possible candidate for president. In a 2019 speech, while campaigning for twice-failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Winfrey said that she wouldn’t run.

“I am not here because I am making some grandstand, because I’m thinking about running myself,” Winfrey said at the time. “I don’t want to run. I am not trying to test any waters, don’t want to go in those waters.”

Last fall, Winfrey, a reliable donor to Democrats, endorsed Democrat John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race. His opponent, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, was a mainstay on Winfrey’s talk show for decades and previously worked with her.

If Feinstein steps down, Newsom would be under considerable pressure to name someone to her seat in the interim as Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate. In 2020, the governor appointed Alex Padilla, who was the California secretary of state, after then-Sen. Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.

Already, a number of California Democrats have demanded that Newsom name a black woman to the seat. For example, Democrat Assemblymember Lori Wilson, who is black, told AP: “Newsom must honor his promise to appoint a Black woman” if Feinstein resigns, adding that California has “zero black women in the Senate,” although the state only has two U.S. Senate seats and Census data shows that black people make up about 5 percent of the state’s population.

In a recent interview with Fox 11 TV in Los Angeles, Newsom said he was being swamped with recommendations for how to fill a possible Senate vacancy. He calls Feinstein a mentor and one of his closest friends, and said he was hoping he never had to make a decision to fill her seat. He noted that the primary was quickly approaching in March, and added that he was sensitive to criticism that voters should be picking their elected officials, hinting that he might choose a caretaker to hold the spot, if one occurs.

“I get it. For those who say, ‘Enough of Newsom making these picks!’ I get it. I’m with you. I understand,” he said.

Feinstein Speculation

It comes as Feinstein, who turns 90 next month, was gone from the Senate for more than two weeks as she battled a shingles infection. She returned back to Congress several weeks ago, confined to a wheelchair, and delivered unusual remarks to reporters saying she was still working in the Senate when she was recovering in the hospital.

dianne feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) attends a Senate hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, on June 16, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

But Feinstein’s illness was more severe than previously reported by her office. A spokesperson, responding to those reports, told media outlets that the “senator previously disclosed that she had several complications related to her shingles diagnosis … those complications included Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis.”

“While the encephalitis resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March, she continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome,” Feinstein’s spokesperson said a week ago.

Earlier this year, Feinstein confirmed that she wouldn’t be seeking reelection for the seat she’s held since the early 1990s. California Democrat Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter have officially announced they would run for her seat in 2024.

On the advice of doctors, Feinstein’s staff say she is working a lighter schedule as she deals with side effects from the virus, including vision and balance problems. She has been using a wheelchair to get to her office and committee meetings.

Questions have been raised in recent years about Feinstein’s memory and mental acuity, though she has defended her effectiveness. Since her return to Washington, she has at times appeared confused during brief discussions with reporters.

Feinstein’s biographer Jerry Roberts told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that the senator has “a belief in herself to the point of stubbornness, where nobody is going to tell her what she can or cannot do. She has tremendous belief and confidence in her own strength and her own ability.”

The Epoch Times has contacted a Winfrey spokesperson for comment

The Associated Press contributed to this report.