President Obama nominated Oprah Winfrey to serve as ambassador to Russia today.
In a written statement, the White House said the veteran broadcaster has been selected to replace Russian policy expert Michael McFaul, who announced last week that he was stepping down after little more than a year on the job.
“Oprah Winfrey is an accomplished businesswoman and a cultural icon,” the statement reads. “Although she started with nothing, now this captivating entertainer is worth billions of dollars.
“Achieving her success took an enormous amount of intelligence, tenacity and grit. All of these skills will serve her well representing America’s interests in Moscow as the next U.S. ambassador.
“Since she left The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011, Ms. Winfrey has been searching for a way to give back to the American people. Using her considerable communications skills to resolve geopolitical conflicts will further cement her legacy as one of America’s greatest national treasures.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Winfrey will become one of America’s highest profile diplomats and the first African-American to serve as ambassador to a major world power. Confirmation hearings are expected to begin next week.
The Obama administration has been under fire in recent weeks for choosing under-qualified campaign donors to represent U.S. diplomatic interests in key countries around the world.
At recent hearings the incoming ambassadors to Argentina and Iceland admitted they had never been to those countries. Meanwhile, America’s next ambassador to Beijing admitted that he’s “not a China expert.”
The issue is said to have provoked considerable discord between the State Department, who would prefer career diplomats to serve as ambassadors and the White House, which uses ambassadorships to reward campaign donors for their contributions.
Oprah was one of the biggest donors to Obama’s campaign, and even traveled with the president on the campaign trail. While the White House admits that her lack of diplomatic training will be a handicap, they will be sending some extra assistance to compensate.
“We realize that Ms. Winfrey lacks foreign policy experience and will need some help performing her duties in Moscow,” says White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough. “That’s why we’re also sending Montel Williams and Jerry Springer.
“Mr. Springer is an expert in conflict resolution and should really come in handy with regards to Syria and Chechnya . And Mr. Williams is a fantastic spokesman for any product. American foreign policy is proud to receive his endorsement.”
In Moscow, reaction to the appointment has been mixed, with some saying the choice of an entertainer is a sign of disrespect. Others, however, greeted the news sarcastically.
“I think she’ll do fine,” says Natalya Simonova, a university student. “Everyone in Russia loves black people.”