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Continued: Switzerland apologizes after Oprah says clerk at store treated her in racist manner

  • Article by: JOHN HEILPRIN , Associated Press
  • Last update: August 9, 2013 - 4:40 PM

And this week, a row broke out over plans to bar asylum-seekers living in the small town of Bremgarten from visiting public swimming pools and attending schools.

Human Rights Watch said the agreement by the Swiss migration office to let the town impose "house rules" to limit access to schools and sports facilities violates international law.

It wasn't the first time Winfrey has taken issue with treatment at a ritzy European boutique. In 2005, she was turned away from a Hermes shop in Paris 15 minutes after closing time. The store said it was closed for a private event.

A Hermes executive appeared on Winfrey's talk show to apologize for the "rigid and rude" behavior of the employee. Winfrey complimented Hermes on its response — including sensitivity training for employees — and urged viewers to buy the company's products.

In "The Butler," Winfrey plays the wife of a butler who is a witness to history, from the cotton fields of Georgia to the White House. It is based loosely on the career of Eugene Allen, a black man who served as a White House butler from the Eisenhower through Reagan administrations.

During the TV interview, Winfrey said that "true racism is about being able to have power over somebody else," and that she sometimes encounters it along with sexism in boardrooms. Then she recounted the incident in Zurich while she went shopping alone.

"Obviously, 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' is not shown in Zurich. So this doesn't happen to me unless somebody obviously doesn't know that it's me," she said.

A spokesman for Zurich's tourist office, Christian Trottmann, called the incident "very regrettable" and said it obviously hurts the image of a friendly, world-class city accustomed to different cultures.

"We are inviting her to come back to Zurich and have fun here," he said, "so she can see how open-minded this city really is."

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