Election Section

Oprah declines Bush’s invitation to Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Saturday March 30, 2002

CHICAGO — Talk show host Oprah Winfrey declined President Bush’s offer to join an official U.S. delegation to tour Afghanistan’s schools, saying she didn’t have the time. 

The trip was to celebrate young girls’ return to school after the fall of the Taliban regime. 

“She was invited and she respectfully declined,” a spokeswoman for Winfrey’s Chicago-based company said Friday. “Due to her responsibilities to the show, she is not adding anything to her calendar.” 

Without Winfrey on board, the White House postponed the trip that also was to feature some of the administration’s top women, including Bush adviser Karen Hughes and possibly National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday. 

Aides told the paper it was unclear whether another celebrity who shares Winfrey’s credibility and popularity could be substituted. 

The White House did not immediately respond to questions Friday about the trip or any role Winfrey might have played. 

The Winfrey strategy was devised to dampen images of global violence as Bush’s political advisers become increasingly worried that key voting groups might be growing weary of the constant talk of death and brutality in the war on terrorism, the Tribune said. 

Winfrey is very protective of her reputation and image. Her shows are seen in over 100 countries and her “O” magazine has a paid circulation of 2.5 million. 

Her Web site has a page with listings of organizations that offer assistance to women in Afghanistan.