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‘Morning Joe’ in Chicago: Oprah interview one of the show’s all-time ‘highlights’

“We’ve had a lot of good guests” in the years since MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” debuted in 2007, says EP Chris Licht.  “But this is one of the highlights of the show.”

“This” refers to Oprah Winfrey‘s live appearance Friday, when Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist, and the gang descended on the Windy City for a live broadcast.  Booking the Queen of all media was two years in the making, dating back to Licht approaching her at a New York gala.

“And I literally went up to her,” he told TVNewser in Chicago, “and I knew she watched the show, and I said, ‘You’ve got to do the show.’  And she said, ‘I promise you, I will do the show.’”

Oprah was true to her word.  And she was joined on the program by a veritable Windy City who’s who at the RL Restaurant, including David Axelrod, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, former Playboy chairman and CEO Christie Hefner, Rev. Jesse Jackson, CNBC’s Rick Santelli. Crammed into the main dining room was a makeshift ’set’, plus tables and chairs where VIP guests watched the show.

We chatted with Joe and Mika after the show. Our video includes a special cameo from NBC News president Steve Capus on the subject of the recent Comcast takeover of NBC.

Breakfast was served for attendees, some of whom arrived so early they were also in the house for “Way Too Early”, which Willie Geist anchored live from RL starting at 4:30amCT.  For Geist, the Chicago trip was a homecoming: he was born in suburban Evanston, and lived


there until he was five years old. “I have deep Illinois roots,” Geist tells TVNewser. “So it’s kind of like a second home.”

On Friday’s show, viewers may have noticed that Geist got choice seating, right next to Oprah Winfrey during her on-set interview. “I was touched by the Queen!” Geist jokes.  “I’m healed. My leprosy is gone. It’s amazing.”

But seriously folks, Geist was impressed.  ”It sounds like a cliche, but she really is a life force. She walks in the room, and all eyes go to her. She connects people.”

(Photos: Alissa Krinsky)

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