Oprah Winfrey Apologizes For Naming Switzerland In Racism Incident

Posted By Urban News Hour | August 13, 2013

Though Oprah Winfrey was the one who felt slighted by a sales woman while shopping in Switzerland, the media mogul is apologizing for what she called an incident of racial profiling – saying she’s “sorry” that a frenzy emerged for the country, and the store.

“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland,” Winfrey, 59, told reporters on Monday night. “I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland.”

The Queen of Talk made the apologetic comments about her encounter during the Los Angeles premiere of “Lee Daniels: The Butler,” according to the Associated Press.

“I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don’t expect that you would be able to be there,” she continued.

In recent interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Winfrey recalled a clerk at an upscale Zurich boutique refusing to show her a handbag. Winfrey said she was told she could not afford the $38,000 purse.

“I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am,” said Winfrey, who earned $77 million in the year ending in June, according to Forbes magazine.

“I didn’t have anything that said `I have money.’ I wasn’t wearing a diamond stud. I didn’t have a pocketbook. I didn’t wear Louboutin shoes. I didn’t have anything,” said Winfrey on the red carpet. “You should be able to go in a store looking like whatever you look like and say, `I’d like to see this.’ That didn’t happen.”

But the woman who supposedly helped Winfrey that day had a different story to tell.

“I would never say something like that to a customer,” the unidentified Italian clerk said, speaking to a local Swiss newspaper.

“I don’t know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl,” the woman said.

“It is absolutely not true that I declined to show her the bag on racist grounds.”

The woman added that she would apologize and “say it was all a misunderstanding” if given the chance to speak to Winfrey, whom she did not recognize that day, again.

Swiss tourism officials and the boutique owner did their own share of apologizing for the incident last week, but Winfrey insists there’s no need.

The owner of the boutique, Trudie Goetz, publicly defended her employee, telling Reuters, ‘This is an absolute classic misunderstanding.’

“It’s not an indictment against the country or even that store,” she continued. “It was just one person who didn’t want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag. So no apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland. If somebody makes a mistake in the United States do we apologize in front of the whole country? No!”

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