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Oprah Winfrey Apologizes for Media Frenzy Over Her Experience With Racism

Oprah Winfrey
Paul Marotta, Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey says she’s “sorry” a media frenzy emerged after saying she experienced racism during a trip to Switzerland.

“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland,” Winfrey said Monday night at the Los Angeles premiere of Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.”

“I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don’t expect that you would be able to be there,” she continued.

In recent interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Winfrey recalled a clerk at an upscale Zurich boutique refusing to show her a handbag. Winfrey said she was told she could not afford the $38,000 purse.

“I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am,” said Winfrey, who earned $77 million in the year ending in June, according to Forbes magazine.

“I didn’t have anything that said ‘I have money’: I wasn’t wearing a diamond stud. I didn’t have a pocketbook. I didn’t wear Louboutin shoes. I didn’t have anything,” said Winfrey on the red carpet. “You should be able to go in a store looking like whatever you look like and say ‘I’d like to see this.’ That didn’t happen.”

Swiss tourism officials and the boutique owner apologized for the incident last week, but Winfrey insists there’s no need.

“It’s not an indictment against the country or even that store,” she continued. “It was just one person who didn’t want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag. So no apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland. If somebody makes a mistake in the United States do we apologize in front of the whole country? No!”

“The Butler,” which opens Friday, documents the civil rights movement through the story of a butler who served in the White House for seven presidents.

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