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David Emery

Oprah: Tommy Hilfiger Rumor a 'Big Fat Lie'

By May 3, 2007

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IN HIS first-ever appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger described what it has been like to live with false rumors for the past 10 years accusing him of being a racist. "It hurt my integrity," he said, "because at the end of the day, that's all you have. And if people are going to challenge my honesty and my integrity and what I am as a person, it hurts more than anything else. Forget the money that it has cost me."

Supposedly, Hilfiger had once been kicked off the show by Winfrey herself after admitting he wished that people from non-white ethnic groups would stop buying his clothes.

It never happened, said Winfrey, cajoling her audience: "The next time somebody sends you an email or somebody mentions this rumor to you, you know what you're supposed say to them? You're supposed to say, 'That's a big fat lie.'"

Read more:
Rumor: Tommy Hilfiger Is a Racist
Interview: Oprah Winfrey with Tommy Hilfiger

Poll: Did you believe this rumor when you first heard it?  1) Yes. 2) No. 3) I wasn't sure.


May 4, 2007 at 11:02 am
(1) Mary E. Mount says:

I hadn’t heard of the rumor until I watched Oprah this past week. I believe it is just a rumor.

May 4, 2007 at 11:05 am
(2) Faith Luber says:

It’s so unfair that it only takes one cruel person to ruin a good person’s reputation. If only there were a way to hold such people accountable. It’s also a good opportunity to remind people that they should check the authenticity of stories such as this before perpetuating rumors.

May 4, 2007 at 11:10 am
(3) nashville says:

Why was he kicked off the show by Oprah the first time? Why did she wait 10 years to give him the stage to clear up the rumor?

May 4, 2007 at 11:34 am
(4) rochelle says:

the article says he never was kicked off the show. so that’s what never happened. he never made those racial comments and never was kicked off Oprah. it’s all bull.

May 4, 2007 at 12:20 pm
(5) Victoria says:

You can tell this is a rumor I truly don’t believe it but whatever.

May 4, 2007 at 12:21 pm
(6) Faith Luber says:

Nashville: Did you read the article? This was the FIRST time he was ever on the show; thus, he was never kicked off. And Oprah said that the reason she had him on now was because the fake story was making the email rounds again.

May 4, 2007 at 6:59 pm
(7) Vicki says:

That’s why this site is so needed. “If it’s in an email, it must be true” mentality is so stupid. These jerks figure no one will find out who started the absurd rumor, therefore no one can be fingered for the problems that occur because of the rumor. And when you try to squelch the rumor, people tell you you are being too sensitive. Unfortunatley the internet has taken common decency out of how people talk to each other & how they talk about each other.

May 5, 2007 at 1:17 pm
(8) Matt says:

A better policy might be, “If it’s in an email, take it with a large grain of salt.”

May 6, 2007 at 1:39 pm
(9) David says:

It’s amazing how stupid and gullible people are. We can take 5 seconds to google something and find out the truth yet we are more than willing to e-mail all of our friends and let them know! Urbanlegends.com is a great site exposing all of the internet hoaxes and scams.

May 8, 2007 at 9:19 am
(10) Sheneneh Jenkins says:

I agree with Vicky, Matt & David. You all are right on!

Nashville, honey, please make sure you read the entire story first, okay? Thank you!

May 8, 2007 at 11:33 am
(11) Darnell says:

I saw the show..I’m so happy this isn’t true. Tommy seems like a really nice guy..I wear some tommy stuff, so it’s great to know that was just a rumor.

May 11, 2007 at 12:32 pm
(12) Smiley says:

How did David Emery come up with a story like that since he’s an editor and all of a paper,magazine whatever!!! I’m gkad the rumor was found to be a “BIG FAT LIE” I Love His gear…

May 16, 2007 at 6:32 pm
(13) J.B. says:

I believed this rumor at first, but after reading the article, I have changed my mind. I am a little stumped though by a poem geared towards African Americans that was written by Maya Angelou confronting different clothing designers and the symbols that represent the clothing (Polo- horse). She stated in that poem something about how behind closed doors, Tommy is calling you a ni****. There were other lines in the poem about Donna Karen, Liz Claiborne, and others as well. I know Maya Angelou to be a well respected and educated woman who has done her research, but I don’t know if that line about Tommy is credible for us to believe, and credible for her sake as an educator.

May 16, 2007 at 6:55 pm
(14) J.B. says:

I guess I stand corrected. I just discovered some information about how that poem was not written by Maya Angelou. It was written by an African- American who is trying to show other African-Americans the error of their consumerism. Maya Angelou was upset that this poem was put in her name, and this poem has been disclaimed on her website.

May 18, 2007 at 9:22 am
(15) Karyn says:

She had a right to be upset by that poem. Not only did she not write it but it wasn’t well-written! LOL! I’d be upset too.

Again, as Vicki mentioned, I’m astounded by the “if it’s in an email it must be true” mentality. I know a lot of otherwise intelligent people that seem to lose all sense and logic just because information is sent via email.

May 25, 2007 at 11:46 am
(16) Alicia says:

got on this link you will see tyhe video

June 6, 2007 at 12:38 pm
(17) Danielle says:

My mother in law is a Jewish woman, and told me about this rumor about 2 years ago, and how she doesn’t buy anything Tommy Hilfiger because of it. I found this really weird, so I did an internet search on it this morning – and of course, it was a hoax. The poor man’s business has been suffering for 10 years over a malicious and untrue rumor spread through the internet. Absolutely ridiculous.

June 17, 2007 at 7:53 am
(18) Mark says:

The rumor has been floating on the net for 10 years. Oprah’s show has aired for more than 20. Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz has been there more than a couple of times speaking psychobabble and demonstrating the use of nose bidet, accordingly. James Frey was re-invited immediately after the lies on his memoir emerged. Winfrey has talked about fashion and fashion designers, yet Hilfiger has never earned a minute of airtime for the last 21 years of the Oprah show. What doesn’t add up here?

The shows are pre-taped. Could the alleged rumor truly have occured and never made it to the air? Could Hilfiger truly have been banned on the show only to make ammends with the host and its producers a decade later?

What took ten long years to finally come out and both parties clarify the issue? Ten years seem to be too long a time for a simple phonecall to originate from Hilfiger to Winfrey and ask for a press release. Too long considering he was losing millions in lost revenues.

There is something wrong with this picture.

June 20, 2007 at 4:35 pm
(19) G says:

Give it a rest already. You can look at this from a million different ways and it still wouldn’t be true. Sadly, people are always interested in conspiracy theories. Personally, couldn’t care less either way as I think his clothing is overpriced crap, but hey ..whatever makes ya happy

July 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm
(20) ainesh says:

i hate racists but i love tommy’s clothes

August 9, 2007 at 8:32 am
(21) death2spam says:

I’m sure it can be spun many ways. There are those who truly want and need this rumor to be true. Wonder why it took so long for Tommy and Oprah to give any attention? Once Tommy had come to the dead end of his investigation, he did what all very busy business people do…got on with running the business, ditto for Oprah. This stuff may be high on the list of importance for tabloids, racists and activists alike, but business people do not dwell for long over it. You don’t think Oprah has had her fair share of negative and damaging rumors? They do what professionals do…they put the damage control machinery into action…they then suck it up and move on. Did it affect me personaly? Unfortunately yes. I bought it hook line and sinker. I also loved his “Nautical” lines of clothing and have a Jacket I am particularly fond of. I had only had it for a month when my best friend (who is black) showed me the article. He was, as many of the black community here incensed. No one did research. We all just shrugged and said “figures, white guy…tutonic sounding name, it fits” well, there was a lot of Hilfiger clothes burning parties (not mine they cost too much!lol) and by beloved jacket stayed in the closet…I did not wish to offend anyone and appear to be racist. I am sure I’m not alone, and I wonder world wide how much this cost his company. I am normally such a sceptic about such “reports”, but got sucked right in.

August 10, 2007 at 1:56 pm
(22) Jovie says:

Oprah is on today at 4pm Pacific time and is broadcasting what really happened.

August 16, 2007 at 8:08 pm
(23) Alan Agame says:

No creo q tal comentario sobre el sr HILFIGER sea cierto….se rumoran muchas cosas, pero hoy por hoy no hay pruebas contundentes sobre tal afirmacion; no existe ninguna grabaciĆ²n, video u otras evidencias que prueben la verdad de estos comentarios.

September 8, 2007 at 8:06 am
(24) Natalie says:

It’s terrible how this slander began with. But the problem is, people never question anything they receive in their email, I have friends who forward every single thing they receive without researching the truth in what they have read.

I mean, putting aside all debate about whether Tommy Hilfiger is really racist, do you think a businessman would be stupid enough to say something that would cause him to lose out on a huge portion of the market? “Upper class white people” are only a tiny portion of the consumer market! Plus, why would he want to exclude the “lower class white people” if he’s not racist against the white?

Plus, would any intelligent person be stupid enough to say such bigoted remark on one of the world’s most watched talk shows? Even if he really felt that way, why would he say something like that on an African American woman’s show no less?

I personally don’t buy Tommy Hilfiger goods (not into branded goods) but I don’t believe he is a racist.

January 4, 2008 at 10:31 am
(25) ALS says:

Maybe this was an attempt to end his career by one of those upcoming urban clothes designers in the 90′s. People do dirty things to stomp out their competitors and make room for themselves.

March 11, 2008 at 8:06 am
(26) Jose says:

It’s March 2008 and the famous Email has been translated into Spanish. Boy, when I grow up, I want to be a false rumor so people won’t let me die!

September 22, 2008 at 1:16 am
(27) Kish Princess says:

These rumours were probably started by a jealous competitor or a disgruntled employee.

I received this email today and responded to everyone, and inserted this link.

May 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm
(28) JD says:

Tommy Hilfiger hates white people.

May 22, 2009 at 1:49 am
(29) Not telling says:

I think he is a racist. He only has white people on his website.

June 6, 2009 at 10:02 am
(30) Jim says:

Who cares even if this was true? Black people have their own clothing lines. FUBU being one. For Us By Us. I mean come on. It don’t get much more racist then that. Besides who really wants to see a bunch of thugs wearing Tommy brand stuff anyway. Its white people clothing.

September 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm
(31) John says:

First of all, if he was a racist, why would he have oppened stores in places like Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, China, Japan, and India…
i mean racist people don{t go around selling their products (inthis case clothing) in places where people are non caucasian. So, no, I dont think he is racist

September 30, 2009 at 1:59 am
(32) ANIL says:


October 5, 2009 at 4:52 am
(33) Angela says:

I find it amusing that people believe it when they receive this email. Hello, smell the coffee! This guy is not racist, and even if he is, he is not that stupid to ruin his business by saying such stupid comments!

November 30, 2009 at 8:06 am
(34) Theo Thomas says:

Going back to reference Hip Hop from the early 90′s era, noone could forget the rapper “Grand Puba” – He spoke about his love for Hilfiger gear ad infinitum in his lyrics. Later Tommy make a response to Puba in a well known hip hop publication (maybe it was “the Source) he was quoted for his response “thanx for the plug” – that’s y I had my suspicions from the beginning-

February 26, 2010 at 12:06 am
(35) flygirl says:

I have the email TODAY 2/25/2010

April 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm
(36) care says:

This is to jim. I think your stupid fubu is not racist, its not making degrading comments about one or more races, and it doesn’t mean a variety of people can’t wear it. Its about standing out in the fashion industry that is mostly white. I don’t think tommy is racist. Why do you only use the example, it would look stupid a bunch of thugs running around in his clothes, your obviously closed minded and alittle racist yourself

June 8, 2010 at 2:10 am
(37) rose a says:

i saw the episode. about 10 or so years ago.

August 12, 2010 at 4:14 pm
(38) Jerrell says:

In all fair opinion, I believe they’re many white-americans desingers just like Tommy that showcase their clothing just for White America. Just face it, they’re the majority and most were taught to have a strong-willed demeanor as if they’re the dominant race. I believe he’s a racist, because it took to long for him to answer to the allegations. Furthermore, he noticed many black enterprises were making a profit and felt he needed a way to recieve portion of the profits. That’s when he decided to say the rumor wasn’t true. Hey I’m not offended, they’re all racist and have negative opinions on Black America. Its just what it is, unfortunately; we live in a White man’s world

October 6, 2010 at 2:51 am
(39) Ross says:

I believe he is racist, or else he would have clarified it long before 10 years.

2ndly, if he is kicked out the show, then the show wouldn’t have been aired. Doesnt mean never happened.

Lastly, if he really did not say what was said to be said, he must have look down on non-whites and think there will be no impact so he felt it is not important at all to clarify in a timely manner.

October 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm
(40) angela ricardo says:

it can’t be just a rumor why and where did it start?

November 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm
(41) jurgen says:

i just think Tommy HILFIGER is a real lame name for a clothing brand. I would never buy it!!!

April 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm
(42) Suzie says:

My co-worker got really upset at me today cos i was going to buy a tommy watch, so I didnt but am glad i goggled it! i will go get it tom.

June 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm
(43) ChiHero says:

Hi, I’m a bit surprised that so many people here still think this is true. In fact, Tommy Hilfiger is NOT a racist. That e-mail chain that circulated years ago was proved false. The Anti-Defamation League said so as well. Go to the ADL site and see the history here http://www.adl.org/Internet_Rumors/letter_hilfiger.htm

July 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm
(44) Yau says:

I heard about this rumor in 2002 when I was a big fan of Tommy and enjoyed the quality and design of his clothing. A respectful colleague of mine seriously advised me not to wear Tommy because I, as the Asian, would be teased by anyone who knew that TH was kicked out of the Oprah’s show for his racist remarks.

I immediately looked up the rumor in my mobile phone (GPRS was available) and found another story. Weird enough, when I told my colleague about this, she warmly told me that don’t trust anything from the internet and that may be a campaign run by TH to clear the mess, although she obviously believed what she read from her email.

What I felt sorry is not only for Mr. Hilfiger for being a victim of a 10-year rumor, I do feel sorry for the PR disaster and management. The rumor could be suppressed much earlier and a single word from Oprah should arrive much earlier. This left us a great example of how rumors, no matter how fragile it is, can influence the public so easily if you don’t immediately tell them the real story.

July 15, 2011 at 7:36 am
(45) Jimmy Dell says:

Tommy Hilfiger is in business to sell his products. Why would he intentionally go on TV to disparage and alieniate any of his customers? He wouldn’t of course. If his line was the favorite of outer space visitors and they were buying his stuff by the spaceship load he’d think that they were great and commend them on their excellent taste in fashion. The rumor made no sense.

July 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(46) Tameeka says:

His son is a metisse so how could he have a child with a black lady if he was racist???

August 17, 2011 at 10:20 am
(47) Kbbella says:

For all of those commenting it must be true because it took so long to be cleared up that isn’t strictly acurate. Oprah Winfrey denied it onair in 1999 and there was an investigation by the antidefamation league which found the rumours to be baseless. I think there was a resurgence in the rumours and that’s why Oprah spoke about it again.

March 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm
(48) Sunshine says:

I did see the 2007 show, and he stated that his clothes were expensive and was not paid for people that could not afford them, I loved the tommy brand, I was not rich, but I worked hard to buy the brand for me n my kids, so his comment made me feel I was not good enough for the brand name, so he lost my money and my advertisement, he did not make it about race he made it about class

March 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm
(49) Jakov says:

His clothes is overprice garbage: fact
If there’s smoke there’s fire
Has Oreo child; our forefathers had slaves and slept with them.
Don’t buy TF!

April 10, 2012 at 2:58 am
(50) Peaches says:

It probably is some truth to him making racist statements like that…he probably said it around some of his snobbish stuck up friends or in private like most racist white people who try to be undercover who don’t want to exposed as a racist and when it got exposed he denied it… most racist white people will make racist statements among their peers and when someone takes it further to outside people they always wannan deny it and not own up to what they said… he is a white racist like 99.9% of all white people and that is a known fact in this world today…

May 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm
(51) Tired...Same 'Ole.... says:

Actually it was true…Not only Tommy H….include Ralph Lauren……
Oprah…asked them why….their business was geared for whites….not blacks/hispanics/asians/jews/etc…whites only…..
Many of the people were shocked and hurt..most of the minorities in the audience were wearing their brands…..
I myself saw the aired showed…..the rumor is: it never happened….but it did….It was not a hoax…..
Even when Liz Clairborne stated her profits were donated to the satanic church…..Oprah when to commerical and changed her clothes….
The show was aired…..clear as day….

May 27, 2012 at 2:42 am
(52) Kynnedi says:

This is getting on my nerves because his clothes are friggin cute!! I’d love to start buying it again for my kids, but heck-I don’t want them to be looked at funny for wearing it…truth is, we’ll never know the truth! When you go to his site right now, it showing AFRICAN kids. In fact he has a collection where 100% of the proceeds go to them. I’m going to buy it. I’m not racist and I don’t care! I’m black too! Nothing so far with these comments are making much sense anyway…

November 28, 2012 at 9:35 am
(53) Mark Gilliam says:

Just For The Record and wwhat is being written is FACT. Tommy Hilfiger grewv up in Blue Collar Elmira, Ny where folks took pride in putting in a hards days work. Tommy attnded Elmira Free Academy a culturally mixed school that had it’s share of Blacks & Whites.

Tommy had a fair share of black friends including my brother Alex “Pat” Gilliam, cousins Ron, Dan, Liz & Linda Gilliam. The oint I am trying to make is this….I have known Tommy since I was 11 years old..I am 51 now. For 40 years I have known this man and had the dubious distintion of speaking with him when he was not famous and when he became famous.

he has not changed……..he treats everyone White/Black the same. great guy…whomever posted this crap about Tommy being a racist…please get a LIFE.

June 17, 2013 at 9:24 am
(54) Tommy Hilfiger Fan says:

@Faith Luber: Although it takes just one person to start bull, it takes a whole army of 1d10t5 to spread it.

Ever since I first heard it in 2000, and found it to be false, I wear nothing except Tommy Hilfiger, and only those clothes that have a TH logo on it, so people may repeat that rumor and I may answer it.

September 7, 2013 at 10:17 am
(55) bernie says:

I really don’t think anyone in such high reguard for his clothing ect. would ever make any statements that are racist . But I do have to say to Mr Hilfiger SORRY you think your clothes are made well. There not!. My daughter only wears tommy hill but I recently got her to wear other names your jeans and believe me im buying her TH. forever the jeans always have one leg shorter then the other Yes I always check lenth because I’m 5’7″ and i always make sure there even SORRY yours are not so your just like most Designers
as long as they sell thats all that matters.I’ sorry but I am a checker.
signed a retired person

February 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm
(56) Doug says:

First of all. His clothes are ok-at best- Second, if this rumor was true, the man has the right to his own oppinion.
Take this from a hispanic male. Everyone is racist to some extent. Yes, we all are. Look deep, deep inside your heart.
On the other hand, bussiness is bussiness.

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