In a fawning profile leading up to International Women’s Day, on Thursday, NBC’s Today show celebrated 29-year-old “Instagram poet” and liberal activist Cleo Wade as the “millennial Oprah.” Barely mentioned in the report was how Wade, much like Oprah Winfrey, has campaigned hard for Democrats in recent elections and aligned herself with left-wing groups like Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, and the anti-Trump Women’s March.
“Well, as we’ve been talking about, International Women’s Day is tomorrow,” co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed at the start of the segment. Fellow co-host Hoda Kotb added: “We’re gonna get you ready, sharing stories of remarkable barrier-breaking women. And this morning, we’re gonna...meet a young woman using the internet to spread a message of positivity.”
Having conducted the friendly exchange with Wade, correspondent Sheinelle Jones gushed: “I really, really enjoy Cleo Wade, she’s been called the ‘millennial Oprah.’ She’s the latest ‘it’ girl and internet sensation inspiring a generation of women one post at a time.” With the title “Millennial Oprah” displayed on screen throughout the five-minute long story, Jones declared:
29-year-old Cleo Wade is a poet with a modern-day approach, sharing her writings post by post on Instagram, hoping her words connect with her followers....Wade writes about love, self-confidence, and positivity. Striking a chord with nearly half a million followers. And Hollywood celebs like Katy Perry and Reese Witherspoon are leading her fan club.
Midway through the taped report, after touting “some calling her poems Hallmark cards for millennials,” Jones vaguely alluded to Wade’s left-wing activism: “And today she is a sought-after speaker at national conventions and TED Talks. On social issues, advocating for criminal justice reform and canvassing for several female candidates during election season.”
Pictures appeared on screen of Wade with Hillary Clinton and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
A glowing 2018 New York Times profile of Wade, titled “Cleo Wade Is Everybody’s BFF,” highlighted how “She traded her paintbrush for a pen and rebranded herself as a high-profile social butterfly with a social conscience, making appearances at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with her close friend Katy Perry and at the Lower East Side Girls Club in Manhattan with the actress Reese Witherspoon to talk about self-esteem.”
In 2016, it was even reported that she was dating New Jersey Senator and now 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker.
Media adulation over Wade even reached down under, as a lengthy 2018 article in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald began: “The insult-slinging president of the United States would do well to take a tip from 29-year-old Cleo Wade, who has embraced a decades-old practice to monitor how she expresses herself on social media.”
The puff piece bragged about the extent of Wade’s liberal politics:
“Activist” is another box Wade prefers to sidestep (“I think I feel intimidated by that title”), yet she's deep in the trenches when it comes to social change. Among her Instagram posts are images of her canvassing during Hillary Clinton's US presidential campaign, door-knocking for women candidates in Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina and California, and at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She's also a member of the Creative Council of Emily's List, which organises for the election of pro-choice Democratic women to office; supports Planned Parenthood; has spoken against race-based discrimination at National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rallies; advocates for criminal justice reform and sits on the board of the National Black Theatre in New York. “I don't think you have to call yourself an activist if you don't want to,” Wade says. “[But] you can participate. And I think this time calls on you to participate.”
In January, a year after millions of people joined in the Women’s March to protest President Trump’s inauguration, The New York Times ran a long poem by Wade entitled How Are You Showing Up This Year?, and asked readers how they planned to get involved in politics in their communities.
Ahead of the 2016 election, Wade posted a picture of herself on Instagram standing beside Clinton and telling her followers: “So moving watching @hillaryclinton speak today at church in Philadelphia this morning. Love this city. Love this woman. Let’s do this on Tuesday. #gotv #imwithher #HillyC”
That level of detail about Wade’s Democratic Party activism was missing from Thursday’s Today show story, with Jones concluding that the social media guru was: “Inspiring people with the written and spoken word and creating art to create change.”
When the media are looking for someone to promote as the next Oprah, they naturally will find a person with Winfrey’s allegiance to liberal causes and candidates.
Here are excerpts of the March 7 segment on the Today show:
8:34 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, as we’ve been talking about, International Women’s Day is tomorrow. We’re gonna really celebrate in a big way.
HODA KOTB: We’re gonna get you ready, sharing stories of remarkable barrier-breaking women. And this morning, we’re gonna have – meet a young woman using the internet to spread a message of positivity.
SHEINELLE JONES: I really, really enjoy Cleo Wade, she’s been called the “millennial Oprah.” She’s the latest “it” girl and internet sensation inspiring a generation of women one post at a time.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Meet the “Millennial Oprah”; How Cleo Wade is Mentoring Young Women]
JONES [TO CLEO WADE]: Tell me about this first poem that you posted on Instagram.
CLEO WADE: I was like, well, you know, it would be kind of interesting to take photos of my notebook and actually just take photos of the ideas of the poems or the words that were helping me through my day.
JONES: 29-year-old Cleo Wade is a poet with a modern-day approach, sharing her writings post by post on Instagram, hoping her words connect with her followers.
WADE: What would it look like if you treated every single person in the world as if they were your best friend?
JONES: Wade writes about love, self-confidence, and positivity. Striking a chord with nearly half a million followers. And Hollywood celebs like Katy Perry and Reese Witherspoon are leading her fan club.
8:37 AM ET
JONES: She began posting Instagram affirmations in 2014, some calling her poems Hallmark cards for millennials.
WADE: We are all more than our mistakes.
JONES: And today she is a sought-after speaker at national conventions and TED Talks. On social issues, advocating for criminal justice reform and canvassing for several female candidates during election season.
WADE: All we have to do is show up for our kids.
8:39 AM ET
JONES: Inspiring people with the written and spoken word and creating art to create change.
WADE: We all have the power to do one kind thing in one way. So whether, you know, sometimes smiling at your neighbor is just as important as going to a march for whatever you believe in. There are everyday heroes walking amongst us constantly if we’re willing to listen to their stories.
JONES: So I will tell you, Cleo is working on a new book and continuing her service work in the community. I didn’t even name all the places where she volunteers.