January 26, 2006

Frey admits fictions, Oprah apologizes

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Author James Frey confessed to Oprah
Winfrey on Thursday that he made up details about every
character in his memoir "A Million Little Pieces" and the talk
show host apologized to her viewers, saying she felt "duped."

In 19 years in television "I've never been in this position
before," said Winfrey, whose praise for Frey's book in
September helped make it the top-selling book on nonfiction
lists in the United States last year.

"I really feel duped," Winfrey told Frey on her television
show. She said he had betrayed millions of viewers.

Winfrey began by apologizing to viewers for a telephone
call she made to CNN's "Larry King Live" show on January 11,
while King was interviewing Frey about the controversy. In the
call Winfrey said that even though the facts were being
questioned, the book "still resonates with me" and called the
controversy "much ado about nothing."

"I regret that phone call," she told her viewers on
Thursday. "I made a mistake and I left the impression that the
truth does not matter and I am deeply sorry about that. That is
not what I believe."

Sitting with Frey in side-by-side easy chairs, Winfrey
quizzed the author point-by-point about his book that described
his drug-and-alcohol addiction and the people hurt by it.

"All the way through the book I altered details about every
one of the characters," Frey said "Every one of the characters
was altered," including himself.

He spent two hours in jail, not 87 days, and the account of
his breaking up with a woman who later committed suicide
happened in a much shorter period of time, with their
separation occurring while he was taking care of personal
business in North Carolina, not while he was in jail, he said.

She committed suicide by slashing her wrists, he said, not
by hanging herself.

Asked if The Smoking Gun Web site which first questioned
the book had accurately characterized the discrepancies, Frey
said "I think most of what they wrote was pretty accurate,"
adding they did "a good job."

The Smoking Gun said it could find no evidence of his
having spent that much time in jail and that an auto accident
he wrote about consisted of running his car up on a curb.

Frey said he had developed an image of himself for the book
as "being tougher than I was, badder than I was" as a "coping

Winfrey asked if that was to make a better book or to make
him a better person.

"Probably both," he answered.

"To everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth,
you are absolutely right," she said, adding that the
inspiration the book brought to so many people had clouded her

Frey's book had been chosen by Winfrey for her reading club
-- an honor which often turns books into best sellers.
Published by Random House's Doubleday division, the book sold
more than 1.77 million copies last year after being chosen by

On January 17 Winfrey chose Holocaust survivor Elie
Wiesel's "Night" as her latest selection, sending the book,
first published in the United States in 1960, to the top of
best-seller lists.

Random House is a unit of German media conglomerate
Bertelsman AG.