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The Butler: Have Oprah & Forest Whitaker Sacrificed Oscars for the Sake of the Audience?

Standout performances, rave reviews and a big win at the box office—but what one move could cost the cast their awards?

By Chris Hoenig


David Oyelowo, Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker at the "Lee Daniels' The Butler" LA Premiere at the Regal 14 Theaters on August 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

Forest Whitaker has an Oscar. Oprah does, too. But one unselfish move may have cost the duo a chance at another.

Their new film, Lee Daniels' The Butler, opened to impressive reviews. Critic Richard Roeper raved about it: "I believe every American student over the age of 12 should see this film," he wrote. "But that doesn't mean it's one of those good-for-you movies that feels like a history assignment. This is an important film presented as mainstream entertainment. It's a great American story."

There's already a lot of buzz about Winfrey's Oscar-worthy performance in the movie, as well as Whitaker's. Both have Oscar statuettes on their mantles: Whitaker won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in 2006's The Last King of Scotland. Oprah received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars in 2011 (she was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1985 for The Color Purple).

The team behind the film also knows a thing or two about winning Oscars. Lee Daniels directed Precious, which won two golden statuettes in 2009 (Daniels himself picked up a nomination for Best Director).

But it was a decision by The Weinstein Company (TWC), the film's distributor, that stands out. TWC was home to the last two Best Picture winners: The Artist in 2012 and The King's Speech in 2011. Its formula for Oscar success: the later the release, the better. The Artist was released in late November. The King's Speech hit theaters on Christmas Eve. And historically, December releases win the most Oscars, while October and November releases convert the largest percentage of nominations into wins.

So why release in August? The audience. TWC took the unusual step of moving up the release of The Butler to target its three key demographic groups, which are among the first to move away from summer action flicks: Blacks, women and older moviegoers. "People get tired of seeing all these blockbusters, but they're still in the moviegoing habit," Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Michael Barker said. "Something that's smart can really stand out."

And the move worked: 76 percent of The Butler's opening weekend audience were over age 35, 60 percent were women and nearly 40 percent were Black. With $24.6 million in gross revenue, it easily won the weekend box office. "Almost like we planned it, right?" Erik Lomis, TWC's head of distribution, said, giving some insight into the audience strategy. "We knew it had broad appeal and that we'd be something different in the marketplace. It's a quality movie and that word is going to get out with younger people."

Is the move worth it for the actors? "The opportunity to share the story with America because, you've seen it, it's a great American story, told through the eyes and soul, so beautifully by Forest Whitaker, of the butler," Winfrey told ABC. "I love it because it's not often do you see middle-class African-American families with this kind of tenderness, connection, longevity.

"To see it with an audience is like seeing it anew," she added.

As for Oscar consideration: "Oprah will be fine if she wins it or not," said co-star Cuba Gooding Jr., himself no stranger to the Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor, 1996, Jerry Maguire). "I think she can rest assured that she's about to make a serious statement as a real actress no matter what Oscar comes her way or not."

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Update: Officer's Story of S​hooting Botham Jean Contradicts Witnesses

Witnesses say they heard the officer say, "Let me in. Let me in."

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Botham "Bo" Jean was killed around 10 p.m. on Thursday night by Amber Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas police department, who just ended her shift and returned to her apartment complex.

The 911 call said she cried after shooting Jean in the chest, and apologized saying she thought it was her apartment. Her arrest warrant says that Guyger reports drawing her gun when she saw a figure in the dark apartment, giving verbal commands—which were ignored—and then firing two shots.

But witnesses, according to the family lawyers, say that they heard sounds and talking that contradict that report.

"They heard knocking down the hallway followed by a woman's voice that they believe to be officer Guyger saying, 'Let me in. Let me in,'" attorney Lee Merritt said.

After the gunshots, a man's voice was heard.

"What we believe to be the last words of Botham Jean which was 'Oh my god, why did you do that?'" Merritt said.

There were two witnesses, Caitlyn Simpson and Yasmine Hernandez, that heard a lot of noise on the fourth floor that night, including 'police talk', like: "Open up!"

There was also a video taken by witnesses of Jean being rolled out on a stretcher, with EMS performing chest compressions on him.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is collecting all of the evidence before presenting to a grand jury, which could decide to up the charges to murder.

"We're going to unravel what we need to unravel, unturn what we need to unturn, and present a full case to the grand jury of Dallas County," Johnson said.

Protests were held Monday night outside the police department as questions still remain:

What were the results of the blood test for Guyger, and why did police respond from 30 miles away, rather than Dallas police headquarters that was two blocks away?

The family's lawyers are also still asking why Guyger was allowed to leave the scene without handcuffs and not be arrested for three days. "You or I would be arrested if we went to the wrong apartment and blow a hole in a person's chest, killing them," said Benjamin Crump.

The officer was arrested Sunday, and released on $300,000 bail as of Monday. She is on paid administrative leave.

Botham Jean's funeral is on Thursday.

Related Story: Dallas Police Department's Attempt to Demonize Murder Victim, Botham Jean, is Disgusting

Related Story: Update: Botham Jean Celebrated Amid the Urging of Officer Guyger to Come Clean

Related story: White Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter for Shooting Black Man in His Own Apartment

"Let me in": Witnesses dispute cop account of Botham Jean shooting, attorney says

Obama to Trump: We're Supposed to Stand up to Discrimination and to Nazi Sympathizers

To voters: You can make sure that white nationalists don't feel empowered to march in Charlottesville in the middle of the day.

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Former President Barack Obama kicked off his campaigning for November's midterms, on Friday afternoon, and took jabs at President Trump and the spineless backbones of his Republican constituents.

Obama spared no expense rebuking the administration's actions that have emboldened racists.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders Admits to False Statement on Obama and Black Employment

Trump's administration, again, attempts to downplay the accomplishments of the first Black president.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted Tuesday evening on Twitter that she gave false information when attempting to tout President Trump's record on job creation for Black Americans.

Sanders told reporters, Tuesday, during a White House press briefing:

"This president, since he took office, created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans. After eight years of President Obama in office, he only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans. President Trump, in his first year and a half, has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years."

She greatly undercounted the number of jobs created under Obama.

According to the official count from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the Great Recession, most of the employment gains for Black people took place during the Obama administration.

From January 2009 to January 2017, Obama increased employment for Black Americans by about 3 million jobs.

"Sanders' error dramatically alters the comparison between the two presidents," according to PolitiFact.

"Rather than Trump tripling Obama's increase in African-American employment, it is actually Obama who in eight years quadrupled the increase Trump oversaw in a year and a half. And Obama had to deal with the fall-out from the Great Recession during that period."

After the backlash from Sanders' statement, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) said in a tweet: "Apologies for @WhiteHouseCEA's earlier miscommunication to @PressSec."

Sanders then re-tweeted the CEA, adding her own message:

Hospitals, Doctors Can Sue Patients For Giving Negative Reviews: How This Affects Black Patients

Mounting research finds that Blacks are treated worse in the healthcare system but doctors and hospitals can sue patients for giving negative reviews. How does that work?

Photo by Dana Sacchetti IAEA

A patient entered a plea deal to end charges after a negative online review violated his civil stalking protection order.

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Another Woman Comes Forward to Accuse Russell Simmons of Rape

"It was like being attacked by a flabby walrus," Alexia Norton Jones said.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has again been accused of rape.

Alleged victim, Alexia Norton Jones, granddaughter of book publisher W.W. Norton, has given a largely first-person account published by Variety on Tuesday.

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"The View" co-host Sunny Hostin said Monday on the show that she and her friends had rented a cottage at a historically Black beach, which they've done for many years, but on July 4th, the group was verbally assaulted by teens yelling racial slurs.

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Wife of New Trump Communications Boss is a Virulent Racist

Bill Shine, fired Fox News co-president of misogyny, upstaged by his ignoramus spouse.

Darla Shine's racist beliefs filled her Twitter page, which she deleted as soon as the White House announced that her husband, Bill Shine, was officially joining the Trump administration as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications.

Shine's racist statements dating back to 2015 included questioning why white people would be labeled racist for using the N-word and mocking African nations and Black hair.

On Friday, Mediate published a report with screenshots obtained from her Twitter account, @darlashine, before it was deleted.

In January, in defense of President Donald Trump's sh**hole comment about African nations, she tweeted a racist meme making fun of the progress of African nations when compared to Europe:

She mocked the hairstyles of Black women:

"If white chicks can't perm their hair – Black chicks can't go blonde."

She bashed NBA players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, who spoke out about police-related shootings during the ESPY awards in 2016.

"Comical to see these over paid Black sports stars give Black Lives Matter speech at ESPYs."

She constantly voiced her opinion against the Black Lives Matter movement:

"Imagine the protests if three white teens murdered a Black woman #AmandaBlackburn Only Black Lives Matter I guess," said a tweet about the fatal 2015 shooting of Amanda Blackburn in Indianapolis.

"The new stand-in President at #mizzou is Black. Will every white College President have to be replaced," she said a 2015 tweet.

Shine had a problem with Black people being able to say the N-word while she and other white people can't.

"Funny how critics calling to ban Gone With the Wind, Jefferson Memorial, but no talk of banning the N-word or Rap songs with N-word in it."

"Just singing to one of my jams 'Golddigger' by Kanye West when I realized If I sing along to the verse 'Broke Ni**er' I might be a racist," tweeted Shine in July 2015 (West's song does not include a hard R version of the slur).

"At FSU u can punch a girl in the face & only get kicked off football team but sing a song with the N word in it & you're expelled at Oklahoma," said a 2015 tweet.

"Rebel Flag off State Buildings in SC but cop killer rap songs, songs about rape, and songs with N word continue to play on the radio."

Shine linked Black children with an anti-vaccination conspiracy theory:

"1 out of 10 Black boys has autism," said a February 2016 tweet.

In addition to Shine consistently bashing Black people over the years, she has made some disparaging posts about Muslims. She said the following in regard to ABC firing Roseanne Barr over her racist tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett:

"Wondering what it was that set off the #ABC execs the #Ape comment or really the #MuslimBrotherhood comment," she said a tweet in May.

Prior to working at the White House, Shine's husband was a Fox News co-president who resigned from the network in May 2017 following Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes sexual harassment allegations. Apparently, at the same time Bill Shine was at a network where "institutional racism blunts efforts to attract a more multicultural audience," Darla Shine, a former television producer and author of a book called "Happy Housewives," was spreading the same type of racism on social media.

In regard to Darla Shine's social media history, the White House has not responded to requests from media for comment.

Black Women Slam Top Democrats for 'Failure to Protect' Maxine Waters — a 'Shero'

The leaders expressed "profound indignation and deep disappointment" with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer over failure to protect Waters from the Trump administration's attacks.

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Top Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are under fire for their lack of support for Rep. Maxine Waters, who spoke "truth to power in challenging the Trump Administration to do the right thing by ending a 'zero tolerance' immigration policy," according to more than 150 Black women leaders.

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