Exclusive: Oprah Says Vote for Obama Isn't Vote Against Clinton

As soon as Oprah Winfrey endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president, the buzz began about her potential to sway an election.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, the media mogul seemed to downplay the power behind her seal of approval, saying that just because she is supporting Obama doesn't mean she is against any other candidate.

"I've always said this, that my being in support of Barack Obama is not my being against Hillary Clinton or anybody else," Winfrey said. "It's just that for this moment in time, this is what I know I am supposed to be doing. I feel compelled to do this. So my vote for is not a vote against anybody. It's just a vote for."


Winfrey said she hasn't talked to Clinton since her Obama endorsement, but she left open the possibility of changing her mind down the road.

"Well obviously, Obama's great because I'm believing that the person that I'm speaking up for is gonna take it all the way," Winfrey said. "And then if that doesn't happen, I might readjust my thinking."

Whether her endorsement will have any tangible effect on the race remains to be seen, but Winfrey drew enormous crowds during campaign appearances with Obama in South Carolina this weekend.

And she is taking her role as a political spokeswoman seriously. She told Sawyer that she wrote her own speech before events instead of giving an impromptu talk, as she often does.


"I had written a speech because I didn't trust myself just to stand up there and talk, and this was too important of an issue, I thought, for me to be up there rambling around," she said.

"So the night before I was [up] at 3 a.m. still working on my speech. Yes, I was. And then I heard somebody say that his [Obama's] staff helped me write the speech, which insulted me, since I was like doing my homework late at night, working on it myself. I didn't appreciate that," Winfrey said with a laugh.

Reminder of Struggles and Triumphs

Winfrey makes her living talking, and she certainly has shown her powers of persuasion over the years. So it's no surprise that she produced the movie "The Great Debaters," which tells the story of the 1935 champion debate team from all-black Wiley College.

Denzel Washington, who stars in and directs the film, plays Melvin B. Tolson, the professor at the small Texas college who inspires his students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to face Harvard in the national championships.

Part of the team's success had to do with Tolson teaching students how to debate and win, but he also taught them larger life lessons.

"They said we went up there and kicked people's behinds because we were good, and we were confident, because they were nurtured, you know, and protected. You know, they understood what was beyond the walls of that school," Washington said.

Washington said those lessons are ones he tries to impart to his own four children.

"We do what we have to do, so that we can do what we want to do," he said. "It doesn't happen the other way around. You pay now or you pay later. You got to pay. That's life, you know, and, and there are no shortcuts."

Washington said that "The Great Debaters" is a reminder of the sacrifices, struggles and the triumphs of previous generations of blacks.

"The film is about what these young people accomplish, but it's also about what all of their professors and their fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers did before them, you know, in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation," Washington told Sawyer.

"All these schools began to open historically black colleges, and this was the first opportunity for African-Americans to get a college education, and everybody jumped at that opportunity," Washington said. "And it was, you know, it wasn't the easiest thing to do. There was a lot of sacrificing involved."

Like Winfrey, Washington said he's pulling for Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee.

"I don't like anybody else more than I like him. And we're a year away. So I'm gonna see what's gonna happen," Washington told Sawyer.

But he said he has no intention of pulling a Winfrey and becoming an active part of the campaign.

"No one's asked me," he said with a laugh. "As I said earlier in the week, you know, Oprah can get people in the room, Obama has to keep them in the room."