I am sure no one expects that when The Oprah Winfrey Show does those "Women around the World" episodes that those women represent everyone in their country. No one expects Oprah, from Chicago, to tackle complex issues like human trafficking, exploitation and social stratification in foreign lands.
But I think we do expect a show with such a broad reach, with what has to arguably be one of the most experienced talk-show production staff in the business, to at least do the slightest bit of fact checking. To perhaps Google the place they are talking about.
I heard the promos for the recent episode where Dubai was included for days before it screened. "Is everyone in Dubai rich?" Oprah could be heard asking.
Has the woman read a newspaper? Good lord. Anyhoo, while I wasn't expecting a labour camp expose or anything like that, I was pretty shocked to watch as Dr Lamees Hamdan, an Emirati woman living what is clearly a pretty sweet life, told Oprah that in addition to not paying any taxes (true) people in the UAE don't pay for electricity or health care. Not true. Women here were also not happy that in talking about not wearing the traditional sheila (head covering) and abaya (clothing covering), she called it a "cultural" and not religious decision.
And the story travels. Today Oprah officials apologise to Dubai in a story in the New York Post: "It was never the intention of the 'Oprah' show to misrepresent the people of Dubai," a spokesperson for the show said. "Dr. Hamdan appeared live on our program to speak about her personal life experience as a citizen of Dubai. We apologize if any of our viewers were offended."
The paper also pointed out an interesting side angle:
"Another issue was that the interview was conducted via Skype: The Web-based phone system is banned in the UAE, though the rule was waived for Oprah's segment."
PS: No one else has talked about two of my favourite moments from that show. A) A woman living in Copenhagen says people there often leave their babies sleeping in carriages on the sidewalk. And for different reasons B) Dr Hamdan's husband talks about his long white khandoura and calls it a "T-shirt, business suit and tuxedo, all in one!"