*This week isn’t the first time that controversy has touched the hem of Oprah Winfrey’s book club. Long before she was targeted by the Latinx community for selecting “American Dirt” – a novel about an immigrant family from Mexico, written by a white woman who is accused of getting the culture wrong – Oprah’s whole book club operation took a hit when she selected a memoir that turned out to be largely fake.
In fact, it was exactly 14 years ago this week that Winfrey looked like she was trying desperately not to curse out author James Frey on the Jan. 26, 2006 episode of her talk show. The author of “A Million Little Pieces” had presented his work as a truthful account of his journey through alcohol and drug addiction. Its selection led to an instant two million copies sold. At the time, it was the fastest-selling book in the club’s 10 year history. But then, accusations of Frey fabricating whole chunks of text began to surface.
The unraveling began on Jan. 8, when investigative website The Smoking Gun found a multitude of discrepancies between Frey’s real life and his account in the book, including his description of a nearly three-month jail stay, when in fact, he was only behind bars for a few hours.
Initially, Winfrey publicly defended the book and her selection of it. After Frey acknowledged fabricating some parts of his memoir on the Jan. 11th broadcast of CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Winfrey called into the program to defend the book as the “essential truth” of his life and said the controversy was “much ado about nothing.”
But within weeks, it became crystal clear that Frey had fabricated not just little bits here and there, but a majority of events in the book. Oprah felt like she’d been had. She invited Frey back on the show, apologized to her audience for the CNN call and proceeded to let Frey have it. Oprah and TV Guide tallk about it below:
Oprah says that after that interrogation of Frey, she felt that she had crossed her own line of compassion and called him to apologize. In the final season of her talk show, the two sat down on camera for a third time to publicly clear the air. Watch: