Oprah says Frey ‘betrayed millions of readers’
Winfrey apologizes during live show for initial indifference to controversy
Ric Francis / AP file
Updated: 12:15 p.m. ET Jan. 26, 2006
CHICAGO - Oprah Winfrey challenged author James Frey over his disputed memoir, asking him on a live telecast of her show Thursday to explain why he “felt the need to lie.”
“It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped ... but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers,” Winfrey said to Frey, who wrote the hugely popular “A Million Little Pieces.”
Frey’s story of substance abuse and recovery became one of the best-selling books of 2005 after Winfrey named it to her book club last fall, with countless addicts citing it as inspiration. It was originally published in 2003.
The memoir began to unravel earlier this month when an investigative piece on The Smoking Gun Web site (www.thesmokinggun.com) challenged some of the facts in the book, including Frey’s assertion that he once spent three months in prison.
Frey, 36, appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” show after The Smoking Gun story appeared, and Winfrey phoned in her support for him and for the book, calling the allegations against Frey “much ado about nothing.”
“What is relevant is that he was a drug addict ... and stepped out of that history to be the man he is today and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves,” Winfrey said in the surprise call two weeks ago.
But Winfrey, who has been widely criticized, even by e-mailers on her Web site, for her apparent indifference to the controversy, said Thursday that she regretted making that call.
“I left the impression that the truth is not important,” she said.
Frey acknowledged to King that he had embellished parts of the book, and he told Winfrey Thursday that the same demons that fueled his addictions caused him to mischaracterize himself.
“I made a mistake,” Frey told Winfrey on Thursday.
Frey’s acknowledgments have not hurt sales so far, with both “A Million Little Pieces” and its sequel, “My Friend Leonard,” high on best seller lists. His publisher, Doubleday, said last week that Frey was writing a brief author’s note for future editions of “A Million Little Pieces.”