Open letter to Oprah Winfrey as she prepares for Michael Vick’s appearance on her show

Dear Oprah,

I noticed that your decision to host Michael Vick next week has garnered a lot of commentary, most of it highly critical. But I’m cautiously optimistic about the appearance of Vick on your show. You are the one person who could respectfully, but unyieldingly, hold him accountable for his actions. You could ask the questions so many of us wish we could put to him, and you could be the voice for the victims and the voiceless.

There’s been so much reported about Vick’s participation in the electrocutions and drownings and hangings of his dogs that the story is no longer shocking. As a society, we’ve become immune to the descriptions of cruelty. It should not be that way. Read the accounts in Jim Gorant’s book, The Lost Dogs, to remind yourself of the pleasure Vick took in mercilessly beating these animals, in crushing their heads and slamming them into cement with his own hands.

The press release says you will discuss Vick’s prison time, his return to the NFL, and his future plans. Oprah, please do not let him off the hook by not directly addressing his unspeakable cruelty. Please remember that a fine football record does not translate into a decent human being. Please probe for any indication of sincerity or true work in the area of animal welfare, outside of his necessary PR campaign.

When Vick says he “made mistakes“, ask him his definitions for torture, sadism and cruelty. Ask him how his “mistakes” differ from those definitions he just provided. And then ask him what was going through his head when he made those “mistakes.”

When he says he lost everything in prison, ask him if he thinks those 19 months behind bars were worse than the years of intense and prolonged torture his Pit Bulls endured. Ask him if having a warm bed to sleep in, adequate medical care, and the knowledge of an expiration date on his sentence are comparable to life attached to a chain, receiving no medical attention after having your legs broken and jaw dislocated, and ultimately being electrocuted.

When he says he is remorseful, ask him why he didn’t call off his entourage and face the owner of one of his former dogs when he had the chance last week in Dallas. Ask him what someone convicted of rape, torture, and murder would have to do to prove they are truly sorry.

Oprah, please don’t let us down. I’ve been so disappointed by people I used to respect, including HSUS President Wayne Pacelle and U.S. President Barack Obama. Their support and praise of Vick in the absence of any sign of genuine remorse offends those of us working to make a better life for Vick’s surviving dogs. And please consider offering those of us who would like to face him a chance to sit in your audience for the taping. I promise to show the restraint, respect, and compassion that Vick was unable to demonstrate.


Leslie Smith