The Oprah Example

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 27, 2006; 10:27 AM

It was a matter of hours after Oprah confessed her sin that her move was imbued with larger political significance.

Now that Winfrey has admitted she was wrong for embracing a memoir that had been exposed as a pack of lies, Maureen Dowd told Keith Olbermann, the contrast with President Bush could hardly be greater.

From a small-time hustler's fictitious book to fictitious WMD--well, I guess it was inevitable.

The Bush-Winfrey connection also came up in a column by Chicago Tribune blogger Steven Johnson , who praised Oprah's apology but added:

"Then WLS-Ch. 7, the station where her talk show originated, shockingly cut off the program by cutting to live ABC coverage of President Bush's news conference. Important, potentially, but in the usual order of things, nothing more than a restatement of existing positions."

I must admit, Oprah was better television. She was tough on herself, and then she sliced James Frey, her former book-club fave, into A Million Little Pieces.

I had been kinda depressed about the whole episode. I mean, Frey's so-called memoir is exposed as a fabrication, he still stands behind it, Oprah still stands behind it, Doubleday still stands behind it, people keep on buying it and no one except a few columnists seems to care that it was one of the great con jobs of the modern era.

Well, that changed yesterday. Here's my report:

Oprah Winfrey, embarrassed by her defense of a memoir after it was exposed as partially fabricated, apologized yesterday and then lectured the sheepish-looking author and his publisher in an emotional hour of televised penance.

Two weeks after standing by James Frey's falsified tale of crime and drugs, the talk-show queen reversed herself following a spate of newspaper editorials and columns assailing her credibility.

"I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter and I am deeply sorry about that," Winfrey told viewers of her Chicago-based show. "That is not what I believe." She said she was "really embarrassed," adding, "To everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right."

Frey, after an early series of maddeningly vague comments about "embellishments" and the subjectivity of memoirs, acknowledged yesterday for the first time that, in writing "A Million Little Pieces," he systematically lied.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company