I'm no lesbian says tearful Oprah

A tearful Oprah Winfrey has denied she is a lesbian, saying rumours about her relationship with a female friend were irritating "as it means that somebody must think I am lying".

The influential TV talk show host addressed her 20-year relationship with Gayle King, and her ongoing partnership with lover Stedman Graham, in an emotional interview with journalist Barbara Walters.

"She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don't know a better person," Winfrey said of King, fighting back tears.

"It's making me cry because I'm thinking about how much I probably have never told her that. Tissue please," she added.


King (55) and Winfrey (56) met while working at a local Baltimore TV station in the 1980s. They have been inseparable professionally and personally, sparking speculation that they are gay.

"I'm not a lesbian. I'm not even kind of a lesbian," Winfrey told Walters. "And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I'm lying.

"That's number one. Number two, why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life."

TV chat show host Winfrey said that businessman Stedman Graham was still her lover and mate after more than 20 years together, despite the fact they are now rarely seen in public together.

"I made a conscious effort around 2003, 2004 to pull back on my public appearances with Stedman," she said.

But denying speculation that the pair had split up, she told Walters he was "the love, the lover, the man, the partner, the mate" of her life.

Winfrey is launching a new cable TV network in January in a joint venture with Discovery Commun-ications. She will end her ABC TV talk show in May 2011 after 25 years.