Winfrey guest accuses Jews of ritual child sacrifices

6 May 1989, New York Times
Saturday, May 6, 1989 Section: Front Page: 16A By: New York Times

Hundreds of television viewers and the leaders of several Jewish and civil-liberties organizations protested allegations on Oprah Winfrey's talk show this week that Jews ritually kill children.

During the Monday broadcast, Winfrey introduced a guest -- who used the pseudonym "Rachel" -- as someone who was undergoing psychiatric treatment for multiple personality disorder.

The woman told Winfrey she had witnessed the ritual sacrifice of Jewish children and had been a victim of ritualistic abuse.

She said: "There's other Jewish families across the country; it's not just my family." The show focused on the cult killings of 15 people whose bodies were found in March near Matamoros, Mexico.

The woman's comments provoked hundreds of angry phone calls and letters to Jewish and civil liberties groups, spokesmen for the groups said Friday. They said viewers contended Winfrey did not challenge the woman's statements.

"We have grave concern about both the lack of judgment and the insensitive manipulation of this woman, who is clearly mentally ill, in a manner which can only inflame the basest prejudices of ignorant people," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington.

Jeffrey Jacobs, the chief operating officer of Winfrey's production company, said Winfrey and her producers would meet with representatives of the Jewish and civil liberties group next week in Chicago, where the show is taped.

Jacobs said the sole purpose of the program was to call attention to what happened in Mexico.

"Oprah pointed out this is one particular person talking about her particular situation," he said, "and she was identified at the top of the show as being mentally disturbed."

"We are aware that the show has struck a nerve," Jacobs said. "Under no circumstances do we believe there was any attempt to tie what this woman said she witnessed to the Jewish religion."

A spokeswoman for the program, Christine Tardio, said Friday the producers were satisfied with the truth of the guest's claim she had been a victim of abuse.

Early in the interview Winfrey said, "This is the first time I heard of any Jewish people sacrificing babies, but, anyway -- so you witnessed the sacrifice?"

The woman responded: "Right. When I was very young, I was forced to participate in that, and which I had to sacrifice an infant."

During the interview, Winfrey said, "I want to make it very clear that this is one Jewish person, so don't go around now, saying to people, you know, 'Those Jewish people, they're worshipping. . . .'

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