Oprah Winfrey wasn't the victim of racism when she asked to be shown a 35,000 Swiss franc ($38,000) crocodile handbag in Zurich last month, according to the owner of the boutique where the alleged slur took place.
Winfrey said in a television interview with Larry King that one example of racism she had encountered was when a shop assistant in Zurich refused to get her a bag because it was "too expensive." Winfrey, the billionaire talk-show host and producer, was in the Swiss city to attend Tina Turner's wedding.
"This has got nothing to with racism at all," Trudie Goetz, owner of the Trois Pommes chain, said in a telephone interview from Zurich today. "It was a misunderstanding and a communication problem. The client is king here, and we try to fulfill all wishes."
Oprah: Claims she was told a handbag was "too expensive". Photo: Reuters
The shop assistant, an Italian woman who doesn't speak good English, described the black crocodile-skin bag created for Jennifer Aniston and told Winfrey there were less expensive versions in ostrich leather and suede, Goetz said. The incident was the result of a language problem, she said.
"I wanted to create a 'Pretty Woman' moment and go and come back and buy everything and say 'big mistake,' but then I thought she would get a commission, so I said let's not do that," Winfrey told King on internet channel ora.tv, referring to the 1990 movie starring Julie Roberts.
Christian Trottmann, a spokesman for Zurich Tourism, said his organization regrets the incident.
"Zurich is an open-minded city," Trottman said. "We strive to make sure Zurich is always presented in a positive light, and this kind of incident is obviously not very helpful."
Jessica Boyer, a communications manager at the Oprah Winfrey Network, wasn't immediately available for a comment.