Winfrey enters Frey fray, defends author
James Frey’s alleged deception zipped through the media bloodstream faster than one of the little pieces he once ingested, but Oprah Winfrey broke her silence on the controversy and came to his defense.
Wednesday was marked by a barrage of statements from and about the author of “A Million Little Pieces,” accused of fabricating key details in his memoir earlier this week by investigative Web site the Smoking Gun.
As TSG editors William Bastone and Andrew Goldberg toured the cable-news circuit, Frey went into damage-control mode. The Winfrey-endorsed author posted a note on his Web site, Bigjimindustries.com, that read: “This is the latest investigation into my past, and the latest attempt to discredit me … So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I won’t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.”
Frey further defended himself Wednesday night on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” in his first TV spot since the scandal broke.
Winfrey, who helped turn the book into a bestseller — and whose selection of the tome for her book club prompted TSG to seek information on Frey in the first place — made a surprise call into King’s show at the very end to comment; the show was extended for five minutes to allow her to do so.
Winfrey dismissed allegations of falsehoods in the memoir as “much ado about nothing” and said readers of the book should continue to find inspiration in it.
Winfrey added that she relies on publishers to ascertain the truth of the material in their books.
According to Frey’s site, Frey lawyer Martin Singer also sent a letter to TSG’s Bastone and Goldberg alleging damages and warning of further action.
Meanwhile, Random House, which published both the hardcover and paperback editions of the book, was reportedly ready to offer a refund to anyone who had bought the tome.
Move seemed inconsistent with a statement of affirmation from the publisher earlier in the week, and the company later issued a statement saying the refund would apply to those who bought the book directly from the publisher, which it said was standard practice.
Most publishers sell books directly to the public quietly and at full price, if they sell them at all. The company estimates fewer than 100 copies have been sold this way.
A Random House spokesman said the publisher was not making any arrangement to credit readers who bought the book in stores.
The selection of the comfortable confines of Larry King for Frey’s first appearance implied that Frey was being extremely careful in his choice of venue.
Adding to the swirl was that the controversy happened while Frey’s new two-book deal with current publisher Riverhead was being announced in the book biz. Deal includes what industry Web site Publishers Lunch called Frey’s “first novel, a multi-voiced, multi-threaded story of contemporary Los Angeles.”
The coming days will likely determine the public reaction to the controversy, which could affect everything from Warner Bros.’ decision on the “Pieces” film, still in development, to Oprah’s attitude on bringing nonfiction authors to her show.
However it plays out, the news has vaulted the Smoking Gun, owned by Court TV, to new levels of prominence.