If California Sen. Dianne Feinstein leaves Congress before her term is over, she won’t be replaced by Oprah Winfrey.
The media mogul’s spokeswoman on Thursday threw cold water on the idea that Winfrey could make a foray into politics, saying she “is not considering the seat should it become vacant.”
Winfrey, who has never held public office, has repeatedly turned down appeals to run for president. An endorsement from the talk show host moves markets, pushing millions of Americans to try new diets and turning books into bestsellers overnight.
The Montecito resident’s name had been floated in several media outlets as a possible replacement for Feinstein, who is frail after being hospitalized with shingles.
Feinstein, who turns 90 next month, was absent from Washington for 10 weeks and has been using a wheelchair to get to committee hearings since returning to Capitol Hill. She is visibly thinner, with drooping in her face and eyelid that is apparently caused by Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a side effect of shingles that is usually temporary.
Feinstein has vowed to served out the rest of her term, which ends in January 2025. Three members of the House of Representatives are competing for her seat on next year’s ballot: Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).
But her very public health struggles have amplified concerns about whether the oldest U.S. senator is fit to represent California’s 39 million residents. Her absence from the powerful Judiciary Committee resulted in a delay in confirming some of President Biden’s judicial nominees.
If Feinstein left Congress before the November 2024 election, Gov. Gavin Newsom could appoint a caretaker to serve out the remainder of the term. He would be under intense pressure to name a successor immediately, because Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate.
Newsom has said that he would appoint a Black woman to a vacant Senate seat. When Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president and vacated her Senate seat in 2020, Newsom appointed Alex Padilla, who was then California’s secretary of state and became the state’s first Latino senator.
Times columnist George Skelton in April said it would be difficult for Newsom to fill a Senate opening, should one come up, and tossed out Winfrey’s name as a possibility — almost in jest.
Winfrey has dabbled in politics and is a reliable donor to Democrats.
Last fall, she made headlines by endorsing Democrat John Fetterman in the hotly contested Pennsylvania Senate race. His Republican opponent, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, soared to stardom as “America’s Doctor” on her daily talk show.