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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.


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35 Comments on "Oprah and the con man"

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I watched Oprah last Monday and was very disappointed in Oprah’s treatment to these women and her insensitivity to this subject as well as she and Dr. Robin’s near blaming of the victims. It took courage for these women to come on the show and tell their story. Moreover, the audience needed much more than a “a voice inside telling them something wasn’t right, ” as well as telling them Prince Charming just doesn’t exist. PLEASE; let’s get real here, Oprah.

Audiences need educations on the dangers of a sociopath; how to recognize the signs. Cooper is good, just like the other sociopaths you have profiled on lovefraud.com, Donna. And as you say not only did he charm the women, he charmed their parents too; they are master manipulators.

Until shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil start talking about sociopaths and educating the public more, this problem will continue. Shame on Oprah…Shame on her. I expected so much more.

I was really DISGUSTED by both Oprah & Dr. Robin. I have never been a fan of Oprah for a variety of reasons and this was one of those reasons. I also checked the messages on Oprah’s message board and they all seemed to be very DOWN on the women – making fun of them and calling them stupid.

The pathologizing of the victims is, in my opinion, sick. And it just enables the sociopath more. On my blog I have been talking about NLP and online brainwashing and online disinhibition in internet relationships. I got email telling me this was just another way for victims to get out of taking responsibility for their own stupidity.

Apparently none of these people have ever dealt with a psychopath. Maybe not even a narcissistic abuser. What I have found is that the majority of the con man/psychopath’s victims tend to be intelligent, well-rounded, savvy people who are totally blindsided by these people.

Its so important people know that the RULES don’t apply when dealing with these people. Cooper is smooth and manipulative – these guys know what they are doing. I often wonder if society is blinded by the advertisers & politicans who use these SAME TECHNIQUES to the point where they can’t tell the difference anymore – we have all become so ‘used to it.’

Oprah needs a reality check. A big one. Unless she’s a narcissist who doesn’t see that what she did was dead wrong.

Great post Donna!!

From my experience, we the victims are perceived as gullible, desperate women. I was very cautious and even getting married when the Don Juan of Con wrote me. I was not looking for another man. OPRAH, I would never have expected her to be so blase about victims. But then again, isn’t she a victim too? She fell for the author James Frey’s lies. It is not our fault that we are flattered when we are persued so ardently in the name of ‘love’. My con man took his time. I was ,after all a means to his ends. He had time on his hands. Sometimes I blame myself, because I got married to an abusive man, and I divorced him quickly. My con man was still writing me as a friend, and once the divorce became final he pursued me and would not give up. My defense was down. I gave in. Does that make me a stupid woman? No, it makes me a woman that was conditioned to be married, and that I was not whole without a man. I know that now. I am quite capable of supporting myself. I don’t need a man in my life. I am happy being alone. We the victims are always to blame, that is why society and the judicial system allows these pychopaths to continue on their marrying ways. Thanks Donna for always bringing up good information. Donna

Another thing that griped me about this particular show was the fact that Bigamy was only mentioned once and nothing was said about it again. Bigamy is a felony in all but 13 states. Just reading the case histories of Anthony Glenn Owens and Ed Hicks, two serial bigamists, and two men whose actions are typical of a sociopath as well as Montgomery’s case history on http://www.lovefraud.com lead me to believe there is some correlation. Yet, nothing was mentioned about bigamy being a crime. This show was a major disappointment. Oprah is a major disappointment. I expected so much more.

I met the phony retired marine colonel, said he gone to the u.s. naval academy met on match.com. posed as having five kids. Bullied me to use my credit cards, was going around with five other women in west va, maryland, and va. threatened to kill me. got protective order. big mistake. got mad because it put him so he couldn’t buy guns. make mistake mixing funds. he went after my house and personal property in lawsuits. had to pay him off to get him away from me. he regularly contacts women on match.com, american.singles and other singles activity. has female accomplice in maryland, d.c. really used car salesman in gaithersburg md…beware horrible sociopath

I, too, approached the Oprah show after finding 5 victims…with no response. This is a real problem with many victims that needs real and sensitive solutions.

Is anyone in contact with any of the women who fell for Eric Cooper’s web of lies? I would like to talk to them to see if they are interested in taking part in a documentary on this bigamist. Any help with this matter would be appreciated.
Nick Baker
(‘Make Believe Media Inc’, Canada)

All my friends here in Australia and the hundreds of people that i know and work with at uni have always believed Oprah to be a Narcissist…it is sooooo obvious! It has been a running joke for years. In Australia, as far as i have seen, women are often quickly identified as narcissists and psychopaths. However the beer sweeling, yobbo. aussie men are encouraged and rewarded for being one!

Wow – Ive learned so much from Oprahs shows throughout the years. If she is a Narcissist she has never harmed me directly. I always saw her as bringing so many topics to the surface that otherwise were taboo until then! Australia has an interesting take on it though.

Tilly,

I’m from the American “Scots-Irish” culture (protestant norther Ireland folks) and they are basically the same group as your Aussie “macho-men” and that frame of mind also goes to the Itallian and Hispanic “culture” as well.

As far as Oparh being an N, I’m not sure about that, don’t know enough about her, however, MANY people who get into positions of power and fame become rather “me-ish” and start believing their own hype and PR about how great they are. So it could be that sort of thing, not a “true” N but a “created” one.

Anyway, I don’t watch her much, in fact, rarely…and didn’t see that show. I do think she DOES need to educate herself about Ps though….and other media “greats” as well. At least she does have a great platform to educate people from and many people do hang on to her every word. A shame in this case at least it wasn’t done very well.

It really has nothing to do with the mental state of the women or men who are conned by sociopaths.

Based on what I see on the news/talk shows, the psychological abilities of the psychopath are GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATED & NEVER DISCUSSED.

Unless you have been “up close and personal” with one, you have NO IDEA.

You might THINK YOU KNOW, BUT YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Every single time, the news anchor/talk show host, focuses on the victim instead of the predator. They should be talking about the psychopath and his stunning ability to manipulate.

Maybe Tilly is right. Maybe there is a reason no one on television wants to “go there” on the subject of psychopathy. Hmmmm.

PERFECT DONNA, PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you sent this to Oprah. Let’s buy a billboard!

PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you Donna. I was so put off by the episode that I don’t even write or talk about it. Thanks for having the courage to do so. I had wish for a moment while watching that show that Oprah herself had experienced a con man like ours– but– guess what? She does not make a good victim does she. That is not our fault. It is not our fault there are con men out there anymore that it is our fault that there are child molesters, rapists and murderers.

I am not well tonite. This is my lowest. I am seeing a psychiatrist tomorrow. Back to the drawing board.\

the sickest thing you guys is that– I must be insan now b/c I become jealous when I think of my ex with a woman. Someone suggested to me that now that my conman has inherited millions he could have any woman– even prostitutes. I felt sick and faint and jealous. why would I be jealous of a woman who has a sociopath?
Maybe b/c she will have what I thought I had. The ecstasy and fantasy and killer sex( and now I made him an even better lover. Damn me!). I was with mine when he lied and said he was a poor photographer. MIne is now loaded at 39.

When he was on the make with me he was so NURTURING AND SOOOOO ATTENTIVE. Fixing things for me– downloading sheet music so I could play it on piano and not pay for it–professional photos for my demos and stuff.
Some woman will now get all that. And the killer looks and great sex and penis and green eyes and sense of humor. And you guys- it is like he is two people. The guy I fell for is deep and way emotional and reads bedtimes stories to his daughter with diferent voices.
sometimes I literally want to die over this– hence– I am off to a shrink tomorrw. What if this never goes away? Why would I still long and miss this man–the person he was before?
I ammmmmmm so angry and sad and scared and feel hopeless. I am also forcing myelf this mon and tues to go stay with my two best friends and fam. He is an Episcal priest and she works in the church too. They can pray with me. That is the only hope I see. God and miracles.
Has anyone else been jealous of their Ted Bundys? Why?

thanks

sorry for all my typos and that was supposed to be
Episcopal priest.

No-one that I know watches Oprah anymore, except to laugh at her Narcissism. She is definitely a narcissist, but I don’t think she is quite a psychopath (that tiny bit of “reptilian-crocodileness” that is just over the line really matters when separating these two…one is incapable of caring, the other lives to hurt, humiliate and destroy…although her “husband” is probably one of the few that know and he was paid off when he threatened to tell the true story). She is a brilliant actress and has got all the right words and looks down pat.

akitameg: I was there. It doesn’t help when they are megamillionaires. But in my case, I had first fallen for him when he was 15, NOT rich…and guess what, it hurt just as much when he dumped me then. I obviously didn’t get over thinking he was “still wonderful”….because I fell for the con again 40 years later. I don’t know if it will be true for you, but what happened for me was the psychiatrist and therapists helped me see even the “good” was bad. It was all a con. All of it. Today I can honestly say there is NOTHING about him that appeals to me. As to why we feel that way about our Ted Bundy’s is …I think anyway….that we haven’t yet seen that the good is all part of the con too. The action may be sweet, but the intent behind it is all about them. Every time.

Tilly:

You are hilarious!!

The Narcissist really comes out when Oprah starts talking about her school for girls in Africa.

Stedman (the stud-man boyfriend) has always been silent.

The rumor here in the States is that Oprah is having a relationahip with her best friend, Gayle King.

I don’t really buy it, though.

And akitameg…. the richest person truly is the one who GIVES the most. A truly powerful person works to empower others. A truly wealthy person works to help others out of poverty. When I was hurting, that seemed like a lot of BS. I know realize I have riches and joys beyond anything he will ever experience…..and he knows it too and was determined to bring me down because of it. It will get better. It will. It will.

Oprah…the red dress at the ball with everyone else required to wear black and white. That made me kinda wonder….

Akitameg:

You are doing the right thing. THERE IS COMFORT IN PRAYER.

God will strengthen you. HE will straighten your path, and ease your burden.

Stay strong.

JustaboutHealed:

OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS….It doesn’t get any more ME than that.

She gives them away to the audience.

That’s a really nice gesture, but it is still called OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS.

I’m just saying…..

OPRAH Magazine:

Who’s on the cover every month? OPRAH!!!!!

What are the odds?

Rosa:

Perhaps Oprah’s theme song should be that number from “Funny Girl”:

“I’m the beautiful reflection. Of my love’s affection. A walking illustration. Of my adoration…”

Don’t give her any ideas!

Wasn’t her opening song “I’m Every Woman” there for a while?

“I’m Every Woman”…who has a billion bucks. La dee da dee dah.

Oprah has done alot of good for many people too…. I dont buy her magazine or know much about her personal life or her reasons for doing what she does, but none of us can dispute she has saved a lot of battered women, and disordered people, and brought insights into our lives that other shows have never ventured toward…and hopefully has done as much if not more good for people .. as she has done questionably selfishly, and narcissisticly. Just my two cents…in being fair to others.

LearntheLesson:

We are totally joking at Oprah’s expense.

She won’t care.

I love Oprah, too.

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—

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!

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.

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. 🙂

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.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

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

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.

NoHonorAmongstThieves

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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