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Oprah and the con man

This past Monday, February 13, The Oprah Winfrey Show aired a story called Casanova Conman. It profiled Eric Cooper of the Houston, Texas area, who allegedly married or became engaged to nine women in 10 years. Five of the women appeared on the show.

Between 1994 and 2004, Cooper married Melissa, Kimberly, April, Paula, another April, Jennifer and Krystal. All the marriages happened quickly, and at least two were allegedly bigamous. He also became engaged to Brandy and Tonya. He has three daughters, and a child on the way, all with different women.

So how did Cooper convince so many women to say “yes”? He told them he was in the Navy, or a Navy pilot, or a Navy SEAL, and showed up for dates wearing his dress whites. He was a smooth talker, and romanced each woman with, “You’re everything I want in a woman.” Or, “You’re the only one who really knows me and can understand me.” Or—drum roll, please—”You complete me.”

Cooper played on their sympathy. He told them his mother died when he was only two years old, he was raised in a foster home, and his foster father abused him. Melissa, his first wife, said on the show that he told her “he wanted a baby so bad,” and “he wanted to be the father that he never had.”

Honeymoon over

Once the couples married, however, everything changed. “One day he would be sweet and loving, then all of a sudden he’d blow up,” Melissa said. And according to Krystal, “The night we got married, for no reason, he switched and said, ‘That’s it. We’re getting a divorce.'”

Then money started disappearing. April, Cooper’s fifth wife, alleged that he stole four checks from her great-grandmother. Tonya said Cooper took her debit card. And Cooper allegedly transferred money out of Krystal’s parents’ bank accounts.

Finally, he was physically abusive. Brandy said pulled a gun on her, and then turned the gun towards himself. Krystal said when Cooper lost his temper, he blamed it on the military. Except there was one problem—Cooper wasn’t in the military.

Cooper, who was in jail for tampering with a government document when the show was taped, would not do an on-camera interview. But he denied all wrongdoing to the Houston Chronicle, claiming to be the victim of scorned women.

The newspaper article pointed out that while Cooper’s mother did die while he was young, he was never in foster care. Cooper also had a history of conning people besides the women on the show.

So what is it about Eric Cooper? He lied profusely and brazenly. He pretended to be in the Navy when he wasn’t. He had a series of casual relationships, even though they were marriages. He made ultimate use of the pity play. He stole money. He was violent. And he blamed others for his problems.

In my opinion, the guy is a classic sociopath.

The expert view

Did Oprah Winfrey ever mention that the guy was a sociopath? No. All she said was that people need to listen to the voice inside them that’s whispering, “something’s not right.”

Dr. Robin Smith, the psychologist who appeared on the show, also voiced no opinion about Cooper. In fact, Dr. Robin, as she is called, came very close to blaming the victims for what happened to them.

“It is not uncommon for women to be seduced by lies and fantasies,” Dr. Robin said. “A piece of it is how needy and how desperate we are, as women, to feel good, to feel worthy, to feel pretty.

“People can sniff out when we’re weak, and they come in like vultures,” she continued. “Now we can blame them—and there is some blame that needs to be put there—but the other piece of it is, as a woman, I want to learn that I don’t want to be so needy and weak and vulnerable that you can sniff when to come in and swoop down and destroy my life.”

Did you get the reference to Cooper? “There is some blame that needs to be put there.” That’s all she said.

Vultures and vulnerabilities

Now, Dr. Robin later stated that women are conditioned to feel insufficient unless they have a man. I agree with that—society puts incredible pressure on women to get “hooked up.” Consequently, it’s rare for a single woman to be happy while alone, which means most single women have vulnerability around this issue.

The key is that not all men are going to “sniff out when we’re weak ” and propose marriage within a few weeks of meeting. But a sociopath will.

And a sociopath will not let up. Cooper wooed these women relentlessly. Heck, he even wooed their parents. Brandy said that on Christmas Eve, Cooper got down on his knee before her entire family and proposed. Krystal said he took her—and her parents—shopping for houses. Normal guys don’t do that unless they’re serious.

Education is the answer

So how do you protect yourself from being conned? The answer is education. You need to understand what a sociopath is, how many of them are out there, and how to spot the symptoms. If you have an awareness that these predators exist, at least when you hear that voice inside saying something is wrong, you’ll know what it’s talking about. Analyzing your vulnerabilities can come later.

In my opinion, more than “some” of the blame needs to be placed on Cooper. And instead of focusing on the women’s “vulnerabilities”—hey, they were all young and single—The Oprah Winfrey Show could have educated millions of people about the danger of sociopaths. Sadly, it was a missed opportunity.



35 Comments on "Oprah and the con man"

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  1. akitameg says:

    but guys– Oprah does GIVE A lot and help to empower people– I think. She does not seem cruel either.
    I will say it is not very sensitive to have all the things/clothes advertised in her magazine– as super expensive. You know– 500 dollar pairs of shoes.

    thank you just about healed and Rosa.
    am I going to be wanting him/jonsing for the guy I thought he was for the rest of my life? This makes no sense. And…if I had known all the secrets…. I would not have fallen for him in the first place.
    What a mindblow all of this is—



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  2. learnthelesson says:

    Rosa – I honestly didnt even look up at the article that was written. I woke up this morning and saw what Tilly wrote, I just thought she saw an Oprah show she didnt agree with!!! LOL…so I wrote wow, I never felt that way about Oprah.. and that was that.

    Then I read the article, and wholeheartedly agree that Oprah and her producers missed a major Mark with that segment – while also touching on some poignant parts about minor stuff “listen to your inner voice, and that people can sniff out when we are weak, and that there is blame to be put on the Bad man….but they did not get to the MEAT of the situation..it was an opportunity lost…

    Anyway my post was trying to offer some balance to some of the goodness she has done along the way. I dont disagree with what Im learning about her and maybe it has all gotten to her head…and I do appreciate humor especially Matts…just that one of her segments on living with mentally ill parent, really helped me tremendously. So I guess Im sensitive to the good she has done too!!! Thanks Rosa!



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  3. Rosa says:

    LearntheLesson:

    I am not a malicious person like that.

    I don’t want to offend anyone. Especially here, where people are going through really heavy stuff.



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  4. learnthelesson says:

    I know Rosa…no offense taken AT ALL… wasnt insinuating that to anyone!!! I was just adding some balance to the otherside – as you clearly picked up on – and you reminded me as JimIndiana sometimes has, to” lighten up lady ” — but I do tend to give my two cents…too. 🙂



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  5. skylar says:

    soo….maybe the oprah winfrey people won’t be interested in learning about sociopaths.
    We have to be very careful how we approach the topic, if we want to make an impact.
    THe sociopath is an expert BROWN-NOSER. there are so many of them, all protecting each other, if we don’t GET it, we can’t protect ourselves from them. The problem is that we don’t like to be disgusting, slimey, liars and conmen. They REALLY enjoy it. That is there advantage. Like a cat that loves to torture a mouse, the predator has the advantage of enjoyment, dopamine. We only have fear and disgust. I think a carrot wins over the stick.

    Akitameg,
    I have been thinking about you. You have much to learn. be open to it.



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  6. one_step_at_a_time says:

    sky – did you read the date on akitameg’s post?



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  7. skylar says:

    Hi onestep,
    yes. I had to run and didn’t finish posting, then I forgot about it.
    What I was referring to is her latest con-man that she ran into last month. I have been wondering how she was able to spot him so quickly but yet still got so hurt.



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  8. NoHonorAmongstThieves says:

    Hahaha, I remember this episode! It changed my life when I was a little girl. The I found his years later and I just -had- to comment.

    Ladies, there is no honor amongst thieves and no partnership amongst cheats. Change or die.

    And now, I leave you all with a riddle –

    Riddle – If one thief steals from seven thieves, who is the one that cries?
    Answer – The seven thieves’ children.



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