Maya Angelou's 911 Dispatcher Ranted About Oprah Winfrey During The Call — Say What?
An emergency dispatcher in Forsyth County, North Carolina, has been suspended over some bizarre comments about Oprah made during Maya Angelou's 911 call. During the call, which was made by Angelou's caretaker, dispatcher John Ruckh can be heard discussing Oprah Winfrey in the background. He said that Oprah, a friend of Angelou's, had "fallen from grace" because of a controversial interview she did with the BBC in the fall of 2013 while promoting the movie The Butler. It's completely unclear why the dispatcher was talking about Oprah during the emergency call.
Ruckh begins talking about Oprah around the 5-minute mark of the 911 recording — well after it was established that Maya Angelou was suffering from an emergency. After saying Oprah fell "from grace," he brings up the BBC interview, in which Oprah candidly discussed racism in America. "She's mad because people are not support Barack [Obama]," Ruckh told his co-worker during the 911 call. "Racism is alive because of so many white people being raised in the era of hating black people."
Ruckh told The Winston-Salem Journal that he was just paraphrasing Oprah's comments to his co-worker. “This is in no way a racial slur, slander, associated conversation,” Ruckh said. He added that Angelou was a "wonderful human being."
According to The Journal, Forsyth County EMS Director Dan Ozimek uncovered Ruckh's comments while reviewing the 911 call on Wednesday. He called the comments "unacceptable" and said Ruckh has been suspended without pay. An investigation is pending.
There's still no word why Ruckh decided to bring up Oprah's BBC interview during Angelou's emergency call, though Ruckh admits it was poor timing. Angelou, a critically acclaimed writer, poet and activist, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86 years old.
Angelou and Oprah were close friends for decades. Oprah released a statement on Angelou's passing this week, praising the writer and the profound effect she had on her:
I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. ... But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life.
Oprah added that she loved Angelou, and said she will be "the rainbow in my clouds."