Oprah for president? TV executive who discovered Winfrey tells her to follow her dreams

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (WTNH) — While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey thanked some of the people that helped her along the way.

The first man she thanked was Dennis Swanson, the TV executive from ABC affiliate WLS in Chicago.

Swanson hired Winfrey in 1983 to host A.M. Chicago.

The New Canaan resident told News 8’s George Colli that she shined from her first audition.

“It was a Saturday on Labor Day weekend,” said Swanson from his home. “I’m watching this tape and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this is phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it.’”

Swanson went on to have a distinguished career that spanned decades and included time working at all four broadcast networks. He says he remembers the advice he gave Winfrey after her audition.

“I said, ‘I’ve seen people push their success right up their nose in life. Are you going to be able to handle success?’ She said, ‘Do you think I’m going to be that successful?’” Swanson fondly recollected. “I said, ‘Lady, this is going to cost me money but you are going to shoot the lights out.’ I just knew how good she was.”

There is growing speculation that Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes is setting her up for a possible White House run. Swanson says she has been successful in everything she’s attempted in her career and that decision will be up to her.

“I don’t know whether politics is a game for Oprah to get into. That’s a personal decision she’ll have to wrestle with,” said Swanson. “I think she can get elected, but the question is if she wants to put up with the nonsense.”

Swanson says he maintained a great relationship with Winfrey and if she asks for his advice on entering politics, he would tell her to follow her dreams.

Web Extra: Watch the full interview with Dennis Swanson below