Wednesday's edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show was devoted to a look "Inside the Lives of America's Poor," coming out of the spirit of the reporting from hurricane Katrina. Once again, Oprah was outraged that anyone would disagree that whites would have drawn a better government response. She rambled a bit: "I got a couple of calls from some crazy people saying, and I mean that in the best way [laughter], people saying I was racist because how dare I imply -- and I think it was Lisa Ling who said on the show she couldn't imagine if this was a wealthy suburb -- how dare I imply -- and the woman said, 'Oprah, do you really think that if those were wealthy white Americans that the response time would have been any different? CNN's Anderson Cooper was there on set to reply: "Yeah, well, ask yourself the question, if that convention center in New Orleans had been filled with white suburban soccer moms, would the response have been different? I think it's a valuable question to ask. I think it's a good question to ask."
Winfrey, who thought only "crazy people" didn't think the response reeked of racism, turned it back on him with a smile: "And what's your answer? What's your answer, Mr. Reporter, sir?"
Cooper replied: "Um, I can't help but believe the reaction wouldn't have been different in some capacity, I don't know how, but this was a population of invisible people and I think there was a lack of understanding of the realities." This is odd, though, since Cooper began by noting that Mayor Ray Nagin failed to bring buses, and failed to accept an offer to put poor people on an empty Amtrak train out of town. So was Nagin, the black mayor, a racist who would have put white soccer moms on the Amtrak train?
Oprah's special featured four cities with people in dire straits -- Oprah in Pembroke, Illinois; Anderson Cooper in Detroit; Maria Shriver in Appalachia; and Gayle King in Hartford, Connecticut. You have to wonder if these poor individuals caught a handout after filming from wealthy descendants of the Kennedys (Shriver) and the Vanderbilts (Cooper), not to mention billionaire Oprah (who does have a Katrina housing effort).
Winfrey raved that Cooper's New Orleans work as the best ever: "That was the most superb reporting anybody has ever seen." Cooper replied, "It was an honor to be there." Cooper said "This whole show is about the invisible poor, and I think what we're really seeing in New Orleans is the price of not seeing and not understanding our fellow countrymen and the way they live."