Entertainment & Arts

Oprah Winfrey clarifies rumored ‘secret son’ was a boy she helped in the ‘90s

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey sets record straight about rumored son.

(Greg Allen / Invision / AP)

Oprah Winfrey has clarified that an ambush by her so-called “secret son” was a tabloid “setup” and confirmed that the man in question is not her child.

The former daytime TV queen explained that she doesn’t have “a lost son,” but rather was accosted by a man named Calvin Mitchell whom she “befriended and tried to help” when he was a child. Mitchell, the subject of a recent National Enquirer exposé, was the one who approached her outside the Ed Sullivan Theater earlier this month when she was appearing on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

“As I left, and he was looking so forlorn, he was like, ‘Can I speak to you?’ So I said to somebody on my team, ‘Will somebody get Calvin’s number so I can contact him later?’” Winfrey explained to “Entertainment Tonight’s” Nancy O’Dell. “I didn’t realize the whole thing was a setup. And then when I found out the whole thing was a setup, I was no longer interested in speaking to him.”

Winfrey said that she didn’t immediately recognize Mitchell as the boy she once helped but had an inkling that something was amiss because she had been asked by a media outlet to comment on a story about her secret son. Incidentally, Winfrey has said she gave birth to a son who didn’t survive when she was 14.


The OWN boss also detailed her history with Mitchell, who she met in the early 1990s while she was working on a TV movie called “There Are No Children Here.”

“We were shooting in the projects in Chicago and I was sitting on set during a break, and this cute little sparkly-eyed boy came underneath the yellow tape to hand me a soda,” she said. “I was so charmed by him that I started talking to him about his family, his school life, and found out that he was in a situation where his mother didn’t have a job and they were stuck in the projects.”

So the philanthropist arranged for him and his family to move out of the projects, for Mitchell to attend a private school and she even found a job for his mother. However, the school’s principal called to tell her that he hadn’t been attending class so she and her partner, Stedman Graham, visited Mitchell at home. That’s when they learned the family had no clocks in their house, another aspect she set out to rectify to no avail.

Despite her efforts, Mitchell was expelled from his school, which prompted Winfrey to give him another chance. She then sent him to a private boarding school in Mississippi in the hopes that if she “could remove him from the environment that he’d been accustomed to growing up in, that maybe that would be helpful to him.”


Mitchell then told her he couldn’t stay in that school because the teachers didn’t like him.

“I said, ‘Calvin, this is the moment. This is a seminal moment for you. I know you are 16 and can’t see the road ahead, but if you leave this school and refuse to get an education -- I have tried to offer you an education twice -- there isn’t another school I can put you in. If you leave this school, I am done. There is nothing else I can do.’ ... And that was my last conversation with Calvin in the early ‘90s,” she said.

The “Oprah’s Next Chapter” host told the outlet that her experience with Mitchell inspired her to open her Leadership Academy for Girls in 2007.

“I learned from that experience, if you really want to change somebody’s life, you gotta be able to spend enough time with them to change the way they think about what their life can be,” she said. “It isn’t enough to give a person a new life or money or a new car; you have to teach them how to fish themselves.”

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