The man who kept Oprah Winfrey “awake at night” is now the man who scammed us all.
On her Oct. 26 show, Winfrey added James Frey’s memoir “A Million Little Pieces” to her book club list, proclaiming it is “like nothing you ever read before.”
But a recent investigation by theSmokingGun.com indicates that Frey’s book, an account of the then-23-year-old’s battle with drugs, alcohol and lawbreaking, should be more appropriately titled “A Million Little Lies.”
Police reports, law enforcement interviews and court records clearly point to one conclusion: the jail sentences, the warrants in three states and the criminal standing were all fabrications and interwoven lies.
During the show, members of Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, termed the book as revelatory while they tried to hold back tears. “Everybody at Harpo is reading it,” Winfrey said. “When we were staying up at night reading it, we’d come in the next morning saying, ‘What page are you on?'”
Winfrey even became teary-eyed. “This is my Harpo family and we all loved the book so much,” she said.
Thanks to these praises, the book hit the best seller list, selling 1.7 million copies in the U.S. last year alone, while holding the top position on The New York Times nonfiction list for the past 15 weeks. It was in second place to the latest Harry Potter title.
In an interview with a Cleveland newspaper in May 2003, Frey said, “All events depicted in the book checked out as factually accurate. The only things I changed were aspects of people that might reveal their identity,” he said. “Otherwise, it is all true.”
But the book does not carry a disclaimer indicating that the names used are fictional. In response, Frey told the Smoking Gun that his publisher “felt comfortable running it” without a disclaimer, and he was not concerned with their decision.
In a recent interview with CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Frey defended himself, saying that memoirs should not be judged in the same category as nonfiction books.
“Everyone’s memory is subjective,” he said.
“I’ve acknowledged that I have changed some things,” Frey told Larry King, with his mother by his side.
Frey said that the changes impacted less than five percent of the book’s content, which is “within the realm of what is appropriate for a memoir.”
Winfrey, who had been silent about the allegations, made a surprise call to “Larry King Live” on Jan. 11.
She encouraged readers inspired by the book to “keep holding on” and called the scandal surrounding the book “much ado about nothing.”
“Although some of the facts have been questioned, the underlying message of the redemption in James Frey’s memoir still resonates with me,” she said. “And I know it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and who will continue to read this book.”
A million little lies or a million big lies, Winfrey isn’t angry.