Sarah Palin Vs. Oprah Winfrey, Round One

At 9 p.m. tonight, Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey will go head to head in the prime time ratings battle.

Winfrey will be Piers Morgan’s first guest on the debut of his show, “Piers Morgan Tonight,” on CNN.

Palin will be on “Hannity,” on Fox News, in her much-anticipated first live interview after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz), the controversy surrounding her in which the mainstream media, without any evidence, shamefully implicated Palin in the Arizona tragedy, and her eight-minute video response that aired before President Obama’s address at a Tuscon Memorial last Wednesday in which she likened the attacks on her as a “blood libel.”

On CNN, Morgan replaces the iconic Larry King and may be the outside the box, breath of fresh air who has the potential to revive CNN’s prime time lineup in a way that “Parker/Spitzer” never could and will. And Oprah will christen his show. CNN has promoted Morgan and his interview with Oprah all over cable television.

The political world has been anticipating Palin’s next steps in response to the controversy surrounding her. Though much of the allegations and insinuations against Palin regarding the climate of hate she supposedly created that caused Jared Loughner to shoot Giffords (though it seems as if Loughner was obsessed with Giffords since a 2007 encounter, a year in which Palin was not a household name) were shamefully trumped up and unfounded, Palin felt compelled to respond to her critics in a video message on the morning before Obama spoke at a Tuscon memorial honoring the fallen.

And they’ll get her response on “Hannity.”

Palin and Winfrey have had their history. Their relationship — or what there is of it — has been awkward and tense, largely because Winfrey has been an open supporter of Obama and a critic of Palin’s.

During the 2008 campaign, Oprah caused a stir by stating that she would not invite Palin on her show until after the election. Of course, Oprah had uncharacteristically endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama, even stumping for him in Iowa during the Democratic primaries. Winfrey had been a vocal supporter of her hometown candidate Obama and hyped his candidacy since Obama gave his rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that put him on the national radar.

When Palin made her debut on Oprah to promote her book Going Rogue in November of 2009, Palin gave Oprah her highest ratings in two years. In a later appearance, Oprah could not get over the curls in Palin’s hair when she was shown on a satellite feed from Wasilla, Alaska.

Last December, Parade asked Winfrey if she was scared Palin would ever be President. Winfrey responded: “It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public.”

One can wonder if Morgan and Winfrey will discuss Palin.

What is certain is that Hannity will ask Palin about her “blood libel” video.  According to a revent survey by Media Curves, which surveryed 1,437 self-reported Democrats, Republicans and Independents, “Americans indicated that Sarah Palin was more sincere and believable after viewing her speech in response to the shootings in Tucson.” This is contrary to much of the chatter in mainstream media sources and publications.

The overnight ratings for “Piers Morgan Tonight” and “Hannity” should be interesting, as will be the times in the future when Winfrey’s and Palin’s paths cross.