Sordid Details From Oprah School Trial

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 30, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JANE SKINNER, GUEST HOST: Oprah Winfrey has said one of her proudest moments was when she opened up that school for girls in South Africa last year. And just nine months later, she had one of her darkest moments of her life. She learned that some of those girls may have been abused within those walls that she built. Well, now, the woman at the center of this scandal is on trial. That trial is underway. Douglas Kennedy tells us what has happened so far.


DOUGLAS KENNEDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls opened in January 2007, the queen of talk told the students she was their mama bear, there to protect and guide them through their education.

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OPRAH WINFREY, FOUNDER, OPRAH WINFREY'S LEADERSHIP ACADEMY FOR GIRLS: I wanted to educate girls because I was a poor girl.

KENNEDY: But today, some of those same girls were being guided by prosecutors, testifying against one of the school's ex-dorm matrons who allegedly abused them and a fellow employee over a period of four months, as the trial went into its second day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and asking her to become a resident.

KENNEDY: Six students ages 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old former dorm matron have been accused of Tiny Virginia Makopo of 14 counts of abuse, including kissing one girl with an open mouth as well as various acts of fondling and verbal abuse. Today, they are testifying on closed circuit TV against Makopo who sat silent and sullen as the trial began yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE: The plea was that she denies all the allegations against her, and she declined to give any explanation. She did not raise any defense. They are reserving her defense.

KENNEDY: Oprah has said she opened the school at a cost of $40 million as a favor to South African president Nelson Mandela who told her poor South African children were missing out on a good education.

NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: We hope that this school will become the dream for every young South African girl.

KENNEDY: The allegations have been particularly embarrassing to Winfrey since her day time talk show is often devoted to preventing sexual abuse. Winfrey has also spoken openly about being sexually abused herself, starting at the age of nine.

WINFREY: This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experiences of my life. Like all such experiences, there is always much to be gained, and I think there is a lot to be learned.


KENNEDY: Oprah has maintained school officials did not tell her about the allegations when they were first reported. She said she has fired some of the staff members and plans to fire some more in the future. That's it from here. Back to you.

SKINNER: Doug, thanks very much. And thanks for watching. Time to send you over.

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