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The undeclared but burgeoning campaign to elect Oprah Winfrey the next President of the United States has received another boost, with the full-throated backing of one of Hollywood’s biggest figures: Steven Spielberg.

“I think Oprah Winfrey would make an absolutely brilliant president,” the Oscar-winning director told the Guardian on Thursday. Spielberg, in London to promote his new movie The Post, said: “If she declares, I will back her.”

Speculation about a Winfrey presidential run in 2020 took off following Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony, where the TV host and impresario delivered a barnstorming and intensely political speech. Afterwards her partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles Times: “It’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it.”

Spielberg, widely acclaimed as the most commercially successful film-maker in cinema history, was effusive in his praise: “She is crackerjack on the money on women’s issues and I call her the ambassador of empathy. And our country could use a dose of empathy right now.”

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Spielberg, who directed Winfrey in his 1985 film The Colour Purple, said the actor-turned-TV-mogul would be a unifying figure. “She’s been on the air for 35 years with all kinds of social outreach, building bridges between different ideologies and different points of view.”

Asked if she has the skill set to be president, he replied, “Does our current president have the skill set to be president?”

Pressed on whether Democrats should look to replace Donald Trump with a candidate with governing experience rather than another TV celebrity, Spielberg said, “I think we need a mindful, empathetic human being in the White House who understands people and puts people ahead of their own ideas of power and self-aggrandisement – and I think Oprah has already proved her capacity for selflessness.”

He noted that previous presidents had often arrived in office having fulfilled no role comparable to the US presidency.

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