The moral behind this story is, reality bites.
The iconic ‘You get a car!’ segment from The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 has come to be not only one of the TV host’s most famous moments but also one of the most renowned moments on TV ever.
It saw everyone in the audience get given a new car donated by General Motors as Oprah called out “You get a car, you get a car, everybody gets a car!” The vehicles were worth approximately $8 million altogether.
However, according to a new three-part podcast titled Making Oprah: The Inside Story of a TV revolution, hosted by journalist Jenn White, what happened after the audience members got their G6s is unsettling.
Upon Oprah’s request, producers targeted and brought in audience members who needed a new car – but they had to pay gift tax of up to $7,000 on receiving their free vehicle. Some went to the media about what happened.
Producer Lisa Erspamer explained, "It was devastating after, because ‘gift tax’ is a thing, and it’s always a complicated thing when you’re giving stuff away.
"But we paid for the sales tax and the registration for each car, and we told the audience after, if they didn’t want to have to pay a gift tax, they could actually take cash for the car. And because we didn’t pay the gift tax, people complained to the press, and that was devastating."
Depending on how much they earned, audience members either had to pay a tax of up to $7,000 to get the car, or pay the tax and keep the profits. They could also forfeit the car entirely.
Erspamer added that the producers had a “real intention to do something good”, leaving them hurt when members of the studio audience reacted negatively. As presenter Jenn White points out: "You can understand why some of the audience might be annoyed with getting a bill of up to $US7,000 ($8,900) depending on your tax bracket... but you can also understand the producers looking at that and going, ‘We just gave you a car?'"
“We put our whole soul into this moment of television and with real intention to do something good, and so when people had a negative reaction, it like literally hurt our feelings,” Erspamer concluded. "You know, we’re people and it made us really sad.”