Was Chimp Victim Charla Nash Exploited on 'Oprah'?

If you tuned in to Oprah Winfrey's show on Wednesday (or if you click on this link), you saw the horribly mangled face of Charla Nash, the woman who was mauled by friend Sandra Herold's 200-lb. pet chimpanzee Travis in February.

If you're too squeamish to watch the actual video, Kevin Miller, the doctor who treated Nash in the ER, described her injuries: "The monkey had ripped off her entire upper jaw, had ripped off her nose, which was hanging by a thread," he told ABC News. "We found extensive dirt, chimp fur and chimp teeth implanted in her bone." Nash lost both hands in the attack, and doctors surgically removed her eyes.

Nash wears a hat with a veil when she goes for daily walks around the Cleveland hospital where she is still undergoing treatment, and she wore that veil during most of her interview with Oprah. Nash told Oprah that she was on the show to get a message across: that keeping exotic animals as pets is not just dangerous, but wrong. But while she was even uttering those words, I didn't feel like I was listening. All I could do was wonder, "What does she look like underneath that veil?"

Oprah even pointed out how "many people around the world want to get a picture of you," leading Nash to reveal that she finally felt strong enough to show her face, and that doing so on Oprah would ensure it was done in a "classy" way.

The big reveal was touted throughout the length of the hourlong show, which only added to the sensationalism of it all. (In fact, every time I now see Nash's unveiled face, I hear Oprah's voice in my head, "Coming up next...") When it finally happened, I couldn't help but feel a bit guilty (certainly not classy), as if Nash was being exploited and I, as the viewer, was the reason why. I wonder if Nash, a single mother to a 17-year-old daughter, ultimately felt the same?

I'm know I'm not the only one who got distracted from Nash's impassioned plea about the dangers of having exotic animals as pets. Nash told Oprah that she can't remember anything from the day of the attack, and given how many of us only tuned in to the show to get a glimpse of her mangled face, it seems that we already have forgotten the lesson of that day, too.

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