From National Review:
On June 22, 2011, James Arthur Ray was found guilty of negligent homicide after three attendees of his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat died. That only three died — 18 others were injured — is nothing short of a miracle: In what Ray called a traditional Native American sweat-lodge ceremony, participants were first subjected to 36 hours of fasting in the Arizona desert, with nothing but a sleeping bag for company, and then required to participate in a ritual inside a 200-degree lodge. Ray called this a “heat endurance” exercise, but a better description would be a $10,000 life-threatening scam.
Twice in 2006, Ray was a guest of the Oprah Winfrey show. Twice, she endorsed his outré New Age thinking. In an interview with The Verge, the mother of retreat victim Kirby Brown revealed that Ray’s appearance on Oprah helped quell concerns her daughter felt about becoming a follower of Ray’s methods. If Oprah endorsed it, her daughter assumed, it must be safe. Alas, it seems the opposite is true. If Oprah endorses it, odds are it’s pseudoscience.
Hers is a strange, unethical, and bizarre system, but it’s a commercially beneficial one. From Oprah, the champions of a yet-to-be-proven, seems-too-good-to-be-true practice receive validity. From her guests, Oprah receives trend points. The only victims are . . . well, everybody else, including people such as Kirby Brown, for whom a high-profile endorsement doubles as a reassurance.
As we’re caught up in the dizzying whirlwind of a potential Oprah 2020 presidential bid (remember, Democrats, Oprah was Trump’s VP pick in 1999), we must be careful not to forget her fetish for the fantastical. Will her candidacy and presidency be underpinned by sound political and economic theory? Or, more likely, will it be another smoke-and-mirrors show, complete with get-healed-quick promises that are not only too good to be true but downright dangerous? The widespread and instant support for a presidential run seems to follow the same logic that cost Kirby Brown’s mother her daughter: Oprah would be a great nominee, the voters reason, because she’s Oprah. If they paid attention to her track record, though, they would see that history has a different lesson: It’s best to avoid much of what Oprah endorses. Could she, too, be too good to be true?