NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Monday August 05, 2013. Oprah Winfrey attends the premiere of Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Photograph: © Darla Khazei, PacificCoastNews.com
Oprah Winfrey addressed the issue of racism many times on her daytime talk show and most recently with the Trayvon Martin verdict. But as an African-American, she's unfortunately no stranger to experiencing it in her own life.
Swiss tourism officials have officially apologized to the OWN mogul after Winfrey gave an interview to Entertainment Tonight in which she revealed she encountered racism while shopping in Zurich when a store clerk refused to show her a handbag, claiming it was "too expensive" for her.
The flap reminds us of that classic scene with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Only unlike the hooker with a heart of gold in that movie, as one of the world's richest entertainers—earning an estimated $77 million from June 2012 to June 2013 alone, according to Forbes—Oprah can afford pretty much whatever she wants.
The magazine also named her its most powerful celebrity of 2013, by the way, and Winfrey wielded that power in order to shed light on the offense while making the publicity rounds for her new movie, Lee Daniels' The Butler.
Winfrey, who was in Zurich last month to attend Tina Turner's wedding and decided to go shopping by herself, told ET that instead of raising a ruckus about how she was treated, she left the shop without buying the bag because she didn't want to give the employee a commission.
"There's two different ways to handle it," Oprah said. "I could've had the whole blow-up thing…but [racism] still exists, of course it does."
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The Swiss Tourism Office released a statement to E! News expressing regret over the incident.
"Switzerland Tourism is deeply sorry to learn about the experience Ms. Winfrey recently had in Switzerland, and we apologize that her feelings were hurt. We would like to assure Ms. Winfrey - like any visitor to Switzerland - that she is welcome with open arms," said officials.
The tourism office issued a mea culpa to Winfrey on Twitter as well, stating that "We are fuming - this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to @oprah."
Officials also retweeted a comment which read, "One very stupid saleswomen is not representative for a whole country," adding "absolutely true" in reply.
The shop, however, called the whole thing "a "200 percent misunderstanding."
The store manager told CNN the purse in question was the latest Jennifer Aniston handbag made by Tom Ford from crocodile skin and was worth $38,000, and when she came in, the talk show queen just wanted to look at the bag and didn't want it taken down.
Per the manager, because the sales assistant felt "a little embarrassed" about the price, the employee quickly said she also had the model in other materials, such as ostrich and suede, that weren't so expensive, which resulted in the misunderstanding.
A rep for Winfrey was unavailable for comment.