In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah Winfrey said she received a lot of hate mail and was called the n-word after she made a guest appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ ABC sitcom back in 1997.
Winfrey played a therapist in the episode where DeGeneres’ character Ellen Morgan revealed her sexual orientation for the first time.
“I did it because she asked me to do it and I wanted to support her,” Winfrey tells The Hollywood Reporter of her decision to be part of the “puppy episode,” as it was famously code-named, in this week’s cover story. “It didn’t occur to me that there would be a backlash.”
The Hollywood Reporter offers more details on the explosive backlash: > After the episode aired on April 30, 1997, Winfrey was on the receiving end of vitriol-fueled letters and phone calls. “It always turns to race. I got all of the, ‘N—–, go back to Africa. Who do you think you are?’” she says of the venom hurled her way, noting that she had never experienced anything like it before. >
> Winfrey was not alone. The episode, watched by a record 42 million people, drew fire from advertisers (Chrysler was among the brands to pull ads) and affiliates. Rev. Jerry Falwell called DeGeneres “Ellen DeGenerate”; religious groups staged protests; and execs involved were on received death threats that required security at their homes.
Although Winfrey was speaking specifically about the backlash after DeGeneres came out her use of the words “It always turns to race” may be more telling of the general hate mail she gets.