Oprah Winfrey is not having a great 2020 so far. In January she withdrew her support for a Sundance documentary featuring women accusing Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. Later that month she found herself on the defensive as dozens of authors signed an open letter demanding she retract her Book Club seal for American Dirt—a novel the authors described as “trauma fetishization.” And now a new party has joined the pile-on: Mo’Nique, who posted an open letter of her own on Instagram to slam what she called a “disparity” in how Winfrey treats different men accused of bad behavior.
Mo’Nique wrote Monday on Instagram, “You did an interview on the CBS Morning Show and were asked about Harvey Weinstein by Norah O’Donnell, and you said as it pertained to him that you ‘always try to look at the Rainbow in the clouds, whatever is the ‘silver lining’. You also said ‘if we make this all about Harvey Weinstein then we have lost the moment’. When you either are, or were going to be a part of documentary on Michael Jackson, and Russell Simmons, how is that not making it all about them?”
Winfrey did, indeed, say both those things during an appearance on CBS This Morning in October 2017—soon after the news about Weinstein broke. But in context, Winfrey appeared to be saying that the scandal, which she also called a “watershed moment,” went far beyond Weinstein—and that to pretend otherwise by making it all about him would hamper the reckoning to follow.
“Russell and Harvey are accused of the same thing so in fairness how do you not ‘support’ the accusers of both as you said you did with R.S. or you look for the silver lining for both like you said you did for H.W.?” Mo’Nique added. “The only difference between the two is there skin color and doesn’t H.W. have way more accusers?”
These comments echo the sentiment 50 Cent expressed last December when he, too, slammed Winfrey for her support of the Sundance doc. As the rapper put it at the time, “I just want to know why [Winfrey] is only going after her own. When it’s clear the penalties have been far more extreme for African American men.”
Toward the end of her letter, Mo’Nique turned toward a more personal slight—one that has gone unhealed for years. “My personal experience with you is you’ve watched me as a black women be accused of being difficult for not promoting ‘Precious’ internationally for Lions Gate, at Lions Gate, Tyler Perry and your request, despite the fact my deal was with Lee Daniels Entertainment,” Mo’Nique wrote. She has previously said she declined to promote the film because Lionsgate, Perry, and Winfrey declined to pay her for the additional work.
“When I was sixteen and I meet you at your local show in Baltimore, I told you I wanted to be just like you when I grew up,” Mo’Nique concluded. “You responded, ‘you have to work really really hard’. My sixteen year old self didn’t know that you in your silence in the face of wrongdoing, would make my life ‘harder’. Lastly, please consider standing by the people who are right and not just the ‘right people’. Love you to life, Mo’Nique.”