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Tom Tangney

How did Oprah do as an interviewer with big Armstrong get?

Oprah Winfrey, right, interviews Lance Armstrong during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling during the interview that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns, File)

We've been hearing about how Lance Armstrong did in his interview with Oprah Winfrey. But how did Oprah do as interviewer?

There may not be two bigger egos than Lance Armstrong's and Oprah Winfrey's but I thought Oprah did a good job of keeping hers in check to get the most out of Lance.

Her line of questioning rarely brought attention to herself - she kept the focus squarely on Armstrong, as it should have been. She didn't badger him like she did with disgraced writer James Frey. She gently prodded Armstrong instead.

And Armstrong ended up revealing a lot about himself - not so much in what he said as in how he said it. I've rarely seen a more tightly wound individual - someone described him as looking like a passenger on a plane that was about to crash - every word that came out of his mouth seemed a struggle, like he was grimly determined to get through this with the fewest number of words possible.

He not only did not seem comfortable with himself, the human race even seemed a bit foreign to him. He came off as bloodless.

And this was only accentuated by the maternal, warm-blooded Oprah Winfrey seated right next to him. The contrast was striking - the natural easy-going conversationalist versus the cyborg.

But it wasn't just about her very presence - her line of questioning, for the most part, was sharp. About an hour into the interview, Oprah started to ask Armstrong about how he "felt" about what he was doing (primarily, I assume, because he seemed to lack all emotion). His evasiveness is illuminating.

Oprah: Was it a big deal to you, did it feel wrong?
Lance: At the time, no.
Oprah: It did not even feel wrong?
Lance: No. It's scary.
Oprah: Did you feel bad about it?
Lance: No, even scarier.
Oprah: Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?
Lance: No, the scariest.
Oprah: You did not feel like you were cheating taking banned drugs.
Lance: At the time, no.

She got a lot out of him, but the fact that he doesn't feel I think is the real answer. Then the way he explained it with, I didn't feel like it was wrong, I didn't feel like it was cheating. That is really crucial. I think that was the mindset of Lance Armstrong. It felt like he was pumping up his tires, pumping up his veins with dope blood. That was the idea.

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About the Author

Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.


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