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Posted by on Oct 31, 2006 in At TMV | 9 comments

Forced Charity


Now this is an episode of Oprah I like.

Oprah Winfrey, who likes to lavish gifts on her studio audience — diamond-encrusted watches, Sony camcorders, Burberry coats, BlackBerrys, cashmere sweaters, iPods, wide-screen LCD televisions, washer-dryers, Pontiac G6s — yesterday gave approximately 300 audience members each $1,000.

“I really do think that it’s the best gift I can give this audience, so thanks to our friends at Bank of America — they thought this was a good idea, too . . . you will each go home with $1,000! . . . One thousand dollars! Okay?” Oprah asked, rhetorically.

Wildly enthusiastic audience response — though, in truth, nowhere near the level of studio hysteria achieved when she gave audience members those Pontiacs. Still, a pretty happy crowd.

Then came the Trick.

The $1,000, she told them, will be doled out in the form of debit cards, and recipients must spend all of their money on a charity of choice. What she was actually giving them, Oprah said with all the patronization of a woman whose financial worth has been put at $1.5 billion, is “the best feeling in the world.”


I actually think that it’s a great initiative. The cynical comments about Oprah’s wealth are uncalled for. She worked hard to get where she is right now. It did not ‘just’ happen: it took and continues to take hard, very hard work. Instead of attacking her, people should focus on doing what Oprah does: trying to be the best they can be.

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  • Mikkel

    Is there a stated reason why Oprah gives the audiences so many gifts? Seems kinda like a counter productive message to me.

  • Rambie

    That is actually a good idea however, with the G6’s, what is the tax issue?

    Would the audience be required to pay gift-tax on the $1000 or was that covered by BofA or Oprah?

    Assuming the audience gave the money to a qualified non-profit charity, could they clam it on their taxes charitable deduction? If so, that’d be real money in their pocket too as well as helping a charity.

  • Rubyeyes

    I’m not a tax lawyer but I’d assume normal gift taxes applied – meaning you can exclude the first $12,000 (new limit in 2006). The audience members would then gain a tax deduction, assuming they itemized. So yes looks like a win / win for the audience and the charities.

  • two_shoes

    Oprah doesn’t give the gifts to her audience. All her offerings are paid promotions, including this one (for Bank of America). She does seem to make an effort to maximize the benefit or message of these “gifts”, and works with the promoters accordingly.

  • We here at Interplast think Oprah’s initiative is a great idea. As long as she’s going to get corporations to give her audience money/products, why not see to it that those gifts do some good in the world *coughInterplastcough*?

  • Rambie

    Thanks Rubyeyes.

  • grognard

    And don’t forget my favorite charity, the grognard society, to help grognards everywhere.

  • Isidora

    Interplast: thank you very much for the link. It has been duly noted and bookmarked. It sounds like a good place to spend some money.

  • husnain

    , “They have great topics like this one on and donate 30% to charity! Check them out.”

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