Oprah Rebukes Author Frey over 'Pieces'
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block. There was another twist today in the saga of James Frey. The author who made up parts of his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, went back on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where his fame took off. Winfrey devoted her whole broadcast to the Frey controversy, and she says she made a mistake when she decided to back Frey after his Fabrications came to light. NPR's Lynn Neary has the story.
LYNN NEARY: When Oprah Winfrey endorses a book it means millions of dollars in sales. So when Oprah called up The Larry King Show after the controversy over Frey's book first erupted, Frey and his publishers no doubt heaved a huge sigh of relief, because Oprah said she believed it was not that important that Frey had lied.
(SOUNDBITE FROM LARRY KING LIVE)
OPRAH WINFREY: Whether or not the car's wheels rolled up on the sidewalk, or whether he hit the police officer, or didn't hit the police officer, is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that he stepped out of that history to be the man that he is today, and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves. That's what's important about this book.
NEARY: Today, Oprah Winfrey told her audience she regretted that phone call. Though the show did not give us permission to use tape, one person watching the program was Bill Bastone of The Smoking Gun, which first reported on the inconsistencies in the Frey memoir.
BILL BASTONE: We were stunned. She came out and opened the show talking about how in her 19-year career in broadcasting, she had never done what she was about to do. And that was, right at the top of the show, just her and her alone, apologized to her audience, talked about how she was embarrassed by the fact that she stood up for Frey. It was, it was devastating.
NEARY: Among the guests on the show were journalists who had criticized Winfrey for her support of Frey. Richard Cohen, a columnist with The Washington Post said he was surprised by Winfrey's Frankness.
RICHARD COHEN: You know, I give her credit for, for getting out there and saying, um, I was wrong. And realizing that she has a reputation and standards that have, that have to be upheld. But, you know, you know, the world is full of people who just go on. I mean, you, you make a mistake or you do something outrageous, and you don't even look over your shoulder, you just keep going.
NEARY: The main event in today's show was Winfrey's interview with James Frey. She grilled him about the inconsistencies in his book. I feel you conned us, she said to Frey. How much is fabricated? She demanded to know. Bill Bastone says, he almost felt sorry for Frey.
BASTONE: I have to tell you, at the end of it, I mean, we felt bad for the guy. I mean, you don't want to really see anyone kind of batted around like that, and looking like he had been run over by a bus. I mean, it's, you know, you kind of feel for the guy. I mean, he brought it on himself, it's all at his hand, but still it was, you know, in that forum, being knocked around by Oprah Winfrey could not have been the most pleasant thing for someone to have to undergo.
NEARY: It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have your truthfulness challenged on national television by its biggest star, Oprah Winfrey. We'll probably never know, unless Frey decides to write a memoir about it. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
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