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December 21, 2014

I have newfound respect for Oprah

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 26th 2006 11:29PM
Oprah confronts James FreyI've never been one of Oprah Winfrey's biggest fans. Although she's helped a lot of people with her show and her wealth, she also tends to over-promote just how generous she is. Also, her sanctimoniousness is irritating as hell; her overreaction to being denied access to a Hermès store that was closing for the night was a particularly galling incident.

But I have to give her a lot of credit for not only confronting James Frey on her show Thursday, but for admitting that she made a mistake in initially defending him on Larry King Live a couple of weeks ago. She realized that, although she supported the message of the book, that the truth is what counts the most. During the course of the show, she showed a fantastic human side, showing flashes of anger, frustration, and humiliation, her voice cracking at certain points during her interview with Frey. She seemed especially dismayed that the facts about the suicide of Frey's lover Lilly, who he supposedly couldn't save from hanging herself a day after his "jail sentence" ended, were also changed.

She really did go hard after Frey and his editor, Nan Talese. When he said he had a tough time with the book, she said "No, with the lie." which took me aback a bit. When Talese tried to curry sympathy by saying she was sad for Oprah, the host snapped back, "It's not sad for me. It's embarrassing." Talese tried to tap dance around Frey's lies by saying that memoirs are of the person's life according to their memories of it, even veering off on some ramble about Roslyn Carter's memoirs, Oprah would have none of it. She was focused and asked pinpoint questions that got at the heart of the matter. It's like she was reaching back to her experience as a reporter in Baltimore thirty years ago, asking the hard questions and not accepting any bullshit.

The only thing she didn't catch Frey on was the jumbled and restructured story about a train accident that happened during Frey's teenage years. The Smoking Gun's story about A Million Little Pieces goes into quite a bit of detail debunking this story, or at least telling the absolute truth about it, which minimized Frey's involvement in the story.

But Oprah did her job. Frey -- to whom I also give credit for coming on and taking his medicine -- looked despondent (it was curious that Talese, who should be held equally responsible for this debacle, didn't seem to take this quite as hard, as she was laughing at the funny lines of columnists Richard Cohen and Frank Rich and the surprisingly mocking remarks of Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute). He mentioned to Oprah during a break that he had a gun backstage, which I hope was just a morbid joke. But he does need to do some more soul searching before he comes out in public again. Maybe go away for a little while, let the controversy fade and come back as a fiction author. Or get a job at Dunkin' Donuts.

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Sandra French

Personally, I am getting sick of stars like Oprah Winfrey trying to sway the public on whom to vote for. Obama would make a terrible president since him primary concern is Africa. Obama’s church he attends states this at www.tucc.org/about.htm. Obama does not hold his hand to his heart during the American Pledge of Allegiance. The United States needs a president who puts American people first and foremost. If Oprah or Obama is so concerned about Africa, they should go there and promote a political party. Furthermore, Americans made Oprah famous; she should have made a school here for American students. I personally think Oprah and Obama come off racist, and I worry about the future of America if he gets voted into office.

January 12 2008 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
death to oprah

I believe Oprah hypebolically over killed on her BOOK REPORT. She has the power to give an entire studio auddience there own vehicle, but wont refrain on picking on a writer. write your own F***ing BOOK.

And, someone please assassinate oprah. All the people that made a difference to america's curruption are of course allready delt with

January 31 2006 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tyler

"this blogger" - you give a solid analysis of the first paragraph of your five paragraph post. I find it reprehensible that you would admire Oprah for flip-flopping on this issue. I watched the interview in question, and was horrified to see Oprah unable to contain her "tears" after phoning to make what I thought was a cogent and fair defense of Frey's take on his writing. Why do you think Frey looked so stunned? Could it be because he was hardly expecting to be subjected to an inquisition by the same woman who had defended him live on television only a short time ago? Her audiences' reactions tell you all you need to know: who would those gasps and groans have been directed at if she'd stuck by what she said originally? I appreciate that you find her annoying, I do as well. But to occupy space to offer her congratulations for entrapping Frey even on the limitless reaches of the internet begs sharp response.

January 27 2006 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liza

It's so cool to bash Oprah, isn't it? Yeah, when she fawns over celebrites it's pretty annoying. And maybe she toots her own horn a little loudly when she does something generous. But another thing she does is teach middle America about what's going on in the world, and I respect that. Sure, it's hard to reconcile that one day she talks about atrocities in Africa and the next she might kiss Tom Cruise's ass, but from what I can tell, she's one of the only celebrities who does periodic wake-up calls about what types of evil goes on in both America and the rest of the world. It's better than nothing.

January 27 2006 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

Commenter #11 (hey if he's going to call me "this blogger", I'm going to call him "Commenter #11"): I spent the entire first paragraph saying how much I dislike Oprah. If that makes me a "butt-smoocher", then Oprah's real fans are more zombie-like than I originally thought.

January 27 2006 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tyler

Ridiculous Oprah butt-smootching from this blogger. Are you hoping she reads this post and makes you one of her "special friends"? She took him to task because she caved to popular opinion which ran completely against her defense of Frey. I would've been more impressed if she'd continued her defense - then she would've demonstrated that she actually believed in something. Instead, we're once again treated to Oprah as the worst of tv's "ambassadors".

January 27 2006 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Heather

I agree with what Mark Allen said above - It seemed that Oprah changed her tune only after people were coming after her. I got that feeling last night on the show and she just rubbed me the wrong way - she just seemed like she was caving into peer pressure. I don't like what James did and I wish he didn't feel like he had to lie about certain aspects of his life, but I did enjoy the book. It was a well-written book. I actually felt sorry for him when I was watching the show because no one brought up that this man still was an addict and an alcoholic and he has been sober for 13 years. This book is mainly about trying to get yourself through that addiction and he did that and it bugged me that there was no one there to support him in what he did there.

January 27 2006 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ken Wooden

I agree that Oprah flaunts her wealth, big houses everywhere, planes, cars,etc. You can only live in one house at a time. Instead of going to other countries and spending her wealth, stay here in the USA and build hopitals and day care centers for those that work and are just getting by. This would help those that are trying. Then I would become one of her fans again by doing the right things. Those with all this money could also get involved to help those who struggle but try.

January 27 2006 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Allen

Oprah's first inclination when the Smoking Gun story broke was to defend the schlub.

It was only when the winds of public opinion -- evidenced through dozens of negative newspaper stories and e-mails sent by Oprah's sycophantic fans -- finally blew strongly enough that Winfrey's tune changed.

She remains as shallow, cynical and expolitative as ever. She's probably pissed that she couldn't hold the show for sweeps.

January 27 2006 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terrie Swank

It is my opinion that MS< Winfrey is a very Honest and caring person.I do Believe that she is truly dismayed at this whole situation and I Give her credit for her honesty and integrity.My opinion of her and her humanitarian works are exceedingly high and in all honesty she is a loved and caring celebrity.Hurray for you Oprah!! You are still admired and even more so now!!!

January 27 2006 at 11:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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