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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Oprah Winfrey Confronts 'Million Little Pieces' Author
Aired January 26, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY: Why would you lie? Why do you have to lie about the time you spent in jail? Why did you do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, two weeks after defending him on this show, Oprah Winfrey says she regrets making that call and confronts author James Frey today over his controversial best-selling memoir "A Million Little Pieces" and Frey admits he lied.
We'll talk with the man who first exposed the inaccuracies in Frey's memoir, William Bastone, editor of The Smoking Gun Web site; and, "Vanity Fair" media columnist Michael Wolff; plus Jeannette Walls, author of her own hard knock memoir "The Glass Castle"; and Carole Radziwill, TV journalist and author of her own memoir "What Remains." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Oprah Winfrey helped make author James Frey famous for his memoir "A Million Little Pieces" and she made it an Oprah Book Club selection. Last year when James Frey -- that was last year.
When James Frey was on my show two weeks ago, she even called in to defend him. But today, Oprah gave him a serious dressing down for playing fast and loose with the facts. Before we go to the panel, let's take a look at some of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: I read this book as a memoir and to me a memoir means it's the truth of your life as you know it to be and not blatant fictionalization, so when I pick up a book and it says it's a memoir, I'm thinking that that is your life. I'm not thinking that that's a character. I'm thinking that that is Lilly (ph) and that that happened to you.
And, I sat on this stage back in September and I asked you, you know, lots of questions and what you conveyed to me and I think to millions of other people was that that was all true. That was all true.
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR, "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES": I made a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: William Bastone broke this whole thing. He's editor of the Web site The Smoking Gun. He wrote the original investigative piece. He joins us from New York. Were you satisfied that the Oprah show covered it all today?
WILLIAM BASTONE, EDITOR, SMOKINGGUN.COM: No. I mean listen if you had to go through all the things in that book that appear to be lies or are clearly lies she'd probably have to do a week's worth of shows with him. I mean basically it came down to when she put it to him, "Tell us what else is fake in the book," he thought for a second and came up with "You know when I left rehab in the book I said I departed with two people when really it was just one."
So, I mean I, you know, I mean I think he -- he offered a little bit up today but there is just so much other stuff in there that's phony and fabricated that it, you know, I just don't think he's ready to even admit that yet.
KING: Was she right in going on and admitting she was wrong and calling here?
BASTONE: Well, I mean I got to tell you I think that she really didn't have much of a choice. The fact is, is she kind of should have thought before she dialed and what the fallout was, was probably for the first time in her career Oprah Winfrey was being castigated on editorial pages across the country, "The New York Times," "The Los Angeles Times," "The Boston Globe."
And she was being called on it by columnists like Anna Quinlan and Maureen Dowd, Richard Cohen across the country and I think that -- and you should have only seen what was going on, on oprah.com, the message boards there. There were a lot of people who were very upset with her.
I mean at the time we said that we thought she was abetting a liar and I think she just realized that, you know, everyone out there is running counter to my defense of the guy and I think she sat back and thought, you know, everyone else happens to be right this time.
KING: Michael Wolff of "Vanity Fair," did she do almost what she had to do?
MICHAEL WOLFF, COLUMNIST, "VANITY FAIR": I think she did a great job whatever it is that she had to do. I mean I think that she saw this as a brand issue. She put her finger in the wind and said "whoops, let's look at this again," and what she managed to do was produce a great Oprah show out of this.
The author sat there looking like a condemned man and everyone piled on, everyone with that particular Oprah hairdo. I thought it was -- I thought it was astounding. Once again, Oprah prevails.
KING: I spoke to James Frey this afternoon. He said it was one of the worst days of his life and he was really down. It was live television. He's not a prisoner Michael. Why didn't he get up and leave? WOLFF: Well, you know, in a way he does seem like a prisoner or he does seem like actually he seems like an addict and what he's addicted to now is, is exposure and being an exhibitionist and I guess this is the other side of storytelling. You tell -- you tell a story. You undo the story. So, this is all playing out. I mean in some sense I think everybody is playing a prescribed role.
KING: Jeannette Walls, is this an offbeat, once in a lifetime kind of thing, or is this a very important story?
JEANNETTE WALLS, AUTHOR OF MEMOIR "THE GLASS CASTLE": I think it's a very important story, you know. A memoir is a very -- it's all about telling the truth and this gives, this incident gives people who hate memoirs, and there are a lot of memoir bashers out there, a weapon to attack memoirs and it's going to constantly be referred back to.
After this came out I got a lot of calls about my memoir, people saying "I didn't realize you guys did this. How much of it did you make up?" And it's very upsetting to those of us who tried so hard to get at not only the emotional truth but the actual truth as well.
KING: Carole Radziwill, what's the difference in your mind between a memoir and an autobiography?
CAROLE RADZIWILL, AUTHOR OF "WHAT REMAINS": Well, the difference is a memoir is just a snapshot of your life and it's not an autobiographical, chronological account of your life. You're not starting from when you were born to, you know, you know old age.
But I'll tell you something, Larry, I think -- I don't think there's as much difference between autobiography and memoirs as people seem to think there is. I think when you're writing your memoir you're telling the truth of your life but you're also telling the facts.
And, I think what distorts so much about life is not understanding the difference between the truth and the facts. The truth is subjective but the facts underlying those truths are not subjective.
And, I think when you sit down and you write your memoir that's what you're really trying to get at. I don't think any of us sit down and try to make our lives more interesting or make the narrative drama more exciting by making stuff up. We just don't.
KING: Jeannette, what did you make of the show today, the Oprah show?
WALLS: I thought what she did was great. I thought it was important that she confront him on that. I do think that the story will continue, the James Frey story will continue to crumble and he will continue to be discredited. But I thought what she did, what Oprah did was good and important and I'm glad she did it.
KING: What happens, Carole, to his second book already a best seller, "My Friend Leonard"?
RADZIWILL: What happens to it? I don't know. I think it continues to sell, which is really unfortunate because, you know, James Frey lied. Is that important for the country, no, God I hope not. Is it important to writers and publishers? Yes it is because in effect he has taken two spots in every non-fiction best-selling list across the country. And, it may seem trivial but it's really not.
I mean this is a business. It's no longer good enough just to write well. You have to get out there and you have to sell your story and you have to sell yourself as part of that story.
And there are two writers that aren't on those lists because of him and those are two authors, and I'm not saying it's me, I'm not saying it's Jeannette, we had a lot of press and we were very lucky but there are two other writers who should be on that list and aren't and they have great stories to tell and no one will hear about them and they did the hard work it took to really write a great memoir.
And maybe it seems trivial but it's really not. The bottom line is this is a business and it's not a very lucrative business because it's really hard to sell books. People just aren't buying books, so when this happens it's really unfortunate for everyone.
KING: More in a minute. We'll be back. We'll be including your phone calls at the bottom of the hour with this outstanding panel. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter and I am deeply sorry about that because that is not what I believe. I called in because I love the message of this book and at the time and every day I was reading e-mail after e-mail from so many people who had been inspired by it. And, I have to say that I allowed that to cloud my judgment. And so, to everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth you are absolutely right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: I called defending you on Larry King because I believed that the essence of the book was true and, at the time, I didn't know Smoking Gun was true or not because you had had a strong relationship with my producers and they so believed in you.
And, we had asked the publisher if this was true. When we started to get criticism after the book, after we announced the book and the publishers had all told us it was true, so that's why I trusted you and believed you. But this is the thing. Why would you lie? Why do you have to lie about the time you spent in jail? Why did you do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: James Frey's publisher released a statement today after the Oprah show was broadcast. Here's what it said. "The controversy over James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" has caused serious concern at Doubleday and Anchor Books. Recent interpretations of our previous statement notwithstanding, it is not the policy ore stance of this company that it doesn't matter whether a book is sold as non-fiction or is true.
A non-fiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them. It is, however, Doubleday and Anchor's policy to stand with our authors when accusations are initially leveled against their work and we continue to believe this is right and proper.
A publisher's relationship with an author is based to an extent on trust. Mr. Frey's repeated representations of the book's accuracy throughout publication and promotion assured us that everything in it was true to his recollections.
When The Smoking Gun report appeared, our first response, given that we were still learning the facts of the matter, was to support our author. Since then we have questioned him about the allegations and have sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished.
We bear a responsibility for which we apologize and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of "A Million Little Pieces."
We are immediately taking the following actions. We're issuing a publisher's note to be included in all future printings of the book. James Frey is writing an author's note that will appear in all future printings of the book. The jacket for all future editions will carry the line "with new notes from the publisher and from the author."
And, although the demand for the book remains high we are not currently reprinting or fulfilling orders until we make the above changes. The publisher's note and the author's note will be posted prominently on the randomhouse.com Web site.
The publisher's note and author's note will promptly be sent to booksellers for inclusion in previously shipped copies of the book. An advertisement concerning these developments will appear in national and travel publications in the next few days."
William Bastone of The Smoking Gun does that cover it from the publisher's standpoint?
BASTONE: Well, look, it's been 18 days since our story came out and not a single person ever questioned the veracity of the story, save James Frey, and isn't it kind of curious that they suddenly decide to release this statement like with five minutes remaining in the broadcast of the Oprah show on the East Coast?
I mean they did this because she made them do this. If Oprah didn't do this to him, they wouldn't be saying a word and, you know, they're going to do all those things and they forgot to forget they left the one other thing that they're doing and that is cashing like the millions and millions of dollars that have been pouring into that company since she picked the book, perhaps tens of millions of dollars (INAUDIBLE).
KING: What do you want them to do with the money?
BASTONE: Well, listen, they're going to do what they're going to do with the money but I'm saying don't, you know, the fact that suddenly there's this -- they've come to the conclusion that, oh, something was amiss.
They knew that 18 days ago and they didn't -- they wouldn't have done anything had Oprah not taken this guy to the woodshed. That's the fact. You think it's a coincidence that they've suddenly decided to do this at the same time she's kicking his butt in Chicago? No, it's not a coincidence.
KING: Michael Wolff, do you agree?
WOLFF: You know, the one thing I want to say is that I may be the only realistic person here who thinks that if you read a book by a junkie it probably won't be entirely true. It seems -- it seems amazing that we assume just because someone writes a book that they're going to become a virtuous person.
This is in large measure to me a kind of a shock-shock situation. The idea that some memoirs might be made up, hello, come on, don't we all know this? You know, I'm full of frustration at this -- at this whole discussion, including the, you know, Bill Bastone's idea that this is -- that this is somehow -- that this is only now happening.
Things are happening because -- because Oprah has decided that they're going to happen. Well, actually the only reason Bill Bastone went after this book is that Oprah put it on the top of the best seller list.
KING: Is that true Bill?
BASTONE: Well, I mean, listen am I aware of James Frey? Was I following the book when it came out two years ago? No, I mean it's a publishing phenomenon at every -- across the country.
WOLFF: So, in other words -- in other words it's about money because money has focused attention on this book. If this book had done what most books do, 5,000, 10,000 copies, this would not be an issue. So, exactly then what is the issue that he made a lot of money off of (INAUDIBLE)?
BASTONE: Well no but, Michael, you have to keep in mind that this book was not published at the time that Oprah picked it. It was published more than two and a half years ago. It was a best seller then. It sold millions of copies.
And what we looked at, the fact is, is that from the point that it was published to the point that we published our stories more than two and a half years in which he constantly lied about it in the pursuit of fame, sales, et cetera...
WOLFF: Well, what do you mean he constantly lied? I mean he wrote the book.
BASTONE: Well then he went out and promoted it and lied to Matt Lauer's face. He lied in every interview.
WOLFF: Well, it would be unlikely that he would write the book and say it's true and then go out and say it's not true.
BASTONE: No, but he went out of his way to continue to perpetrate all these things in the story.
KING: I got to get a break in and I want to get the opinions of Jeannette and Carole. Would you agree though, Bill that junkies lie?
BASTONE: Well, first off I think Mr. Frey, were he to be here, would say that he's not a junkie right now. He's -- he's told you, Larry, he's been clean for almost 12 years. He didn't write the book when he was a junkie.
WOLFF: OK, we're using junkie in a metaphorical sense instead of that literal sense. You know you're a literalist and that may be part of the issue here.
KING: All right, let me get a break in.
BASTONE: I don't think that has anything to do with being a literalist, Michael.
KING: All right, hold it guys. When we come back we'll talk more. As we go to break, here's Frey on this program on the 11th of January defending the book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What's your side James?
FREY: I mean my side is that I wrote a memoir, you know. I never expected the book to come under the type of scrutiny that it has. A memoir, the word literally means my story. A memoir is a subjective retelling of events.
KING: But it's supposed to be factual events. I mean the memoir is a form of biography.
FREY: Yes, I mean a memoir is within the genre of non-fiction. I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to say I've conned anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: I think I made a lot of mistakes in writing the book and, you know, promoting the book.
WINFREY: Do you see the mistakes as lies because you, you know, I think I made a mistake. I think I made a mistake by leaving the impression that the truth doesn't matter because that's not how I live. I think that's a mistake. I don't think I lied. So do you think you lied or you think you made a mistake?
FREY: I think probably both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jeannette Walls, should this be changed to fiction?
WALLS: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, James Frey has talked about emotional truth. That's what fiction writers do. True truths are what non-fiction writers do and the emotional truth.
And, regarding Michael's earlier point about, you know, this is all about money it's not just about money. It's about the message that he was giving to people, people who were trying to rehabilitate themselves, drug addicts who look to this book for help.
And, it was a message but it was a false message and if he wants to spin this yarn fine but call it fiction. He owes Oprah an apology. He owes Hazelton (ph) an apology but mostly he owes his readers an apology and I think he should give all the profits that he made back to rehab centers.
KING: Being a devil's advocate, Carole, would it be possible it did help people?
RADZIWILL: I mean I don't know how many people read it and were hurt by it or helped by it.
KING: You couldn't have been hurt by it.
RADZIWILL: Well, no that's not true, I think if you're an addict and you're seeking treatment or you're in treatment and you read this book and you think, well God he did it. He just held on. Why can't I do it?
No, I think it definitely has -- and people who are looking to go into a 12-step program this is something he says is ridiculous and doesn't work. No, I think it definitely, definitely hurts people.
But, I mean I don't know, Larry. The bottom line is, you know, an alleged crack dealer -- crack addict writes a book and we're all suddenly interested in the truth, so it can't be all that bad.
KING: Do you think it should be fiction?
RADZIWILL: I do. I do and I want it off the non-fiction best- seller list. And, I think, Larry, we all edit our memories so we can live with them and, of course, applying language to memory alters the original experience but the underlying, like I said the underlying facts of those experiences are yours. They're not someone else. You don't insert yourself into someone else's story.
I think, you know, I'm writing a novel now and I'll tell you it's really hard to make this stuff up, so I think, you know, he should go into the fiction novel writing business. It's not that easy.
KING: Would a good fact checker at the publisher have picked this up Bill?
BASTONE: I think that were they to probe him on certain points I think that he would have a hard time to substantiate some of the stuff. I mean to me, you know, maybe I'm cynical but reading the book, you know, you don't have to go more than 20 pages into the book to say some of this stuff is unbelievable. And, as you move into the book, it's filled with vignettes and episodes that are just incredible and characters that are almost as improbable.
KING: So, therefore, would you have to give him some bizarre credit for coming up with this?
BASTONE: (INAUDIBLE). He's going to -- he said he's not going to be doing any non-fiction or whatever this book happened to be and he's heading off to fiction, so we'll see whether he can actually sustain that, you know. I'm not -- I don't know that I'm in the mood to be giving him credit for much.
KING: Michael, you're a terrific media columnist and a very good critic. Is this good fiction?
WOLFF: You know, one of the problems with this book and actually one of the problems with books and writing books and selling books in general is that it's very hard to sell fiction. As a matter of fact, it may be relatively speaking impossible to sell fiction and that's partly the reason that we've -- that we've created this -- this new genre called the memoir.
And this is a genre that has -- that has grown expansively in the last number of years precisely because and actually in part because of Oprah herself because we've -- we've created this -- this genre, this reality genre, a reality genre which actually we know is -- is pretty much not true.
You know it's the idea of the story. Everybody has to have a story. When you go to Wall Street to try to get investors to give you money they say "What's your story?"
So, you know, I really think that this is -- we're at a very interesting point here in which -- in which there is no longer a way to write fiction, so what do you do if you really do want to write fiction, you really do have a story which is kind of half true, three- quarters true but not entirely true to tell? How do you tell it?
KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll include viewer phone calls. We'll reintroduce the panel. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: With the kind of incredible life you've had why embellish anything?
FREY: I mean I've acknowledged that there were embellishments in the book, you know, that I've changed things, that in certain cases things were toned up, in certain cases things were toned down, that names were changed, that identifying characteristics were changed.
You know there's a great debate about memoir and about what should be most properly served the story or, you know, some form of journalistic truth, you know. Memoirs don't generally come under the type of scrutiny that mine had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: Smoking Gun report made headlines everywhere and unleashed a media fire storm.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Turning now to the subject of James Frey.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: There are accusations that this searing piece of self-confession is actually in large part a work of fiction.
BASTONE: He has been promoting the book for two and a half years and basically lied continuously for two and a half years.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Because the book has seemed so honest and raw, who knows what's real and what's not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We will reintroduce the panel. In New York is William Bastone, he's the editor of the Web site TheSmokingGun.com, he wrote the original investigative piece that exposed James Frey's so-called memoir as not entirely true.
Michael Wolff is the famed columnist for "Vanity Fair" magazine. In Madison, Wisconsin in Jeannette Walls and author of her own hard- known memoirs, "The Glass Castle," available in trade paperback. And Carole Radziwill is in Portland, Oregon. Carole is the author of "What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendships and Love."
We are going to go to your phone calls. By the way, does it surprise you, Jeannette, to learn that everybody here in the studio, technicians and the like, think that book sales will increase?
WALLS: That doesn't surprise me. In fact, I think this will ultimately be for the best. There's a lot of discussions now about memoirs. And I think it's raised some really interesting issues, so in the long run, I think it's good. KING: Do you think, Carole, that James Frey's books will go up?
RADZIWILL: Yes, unfortunately, I do. But I want to make a comment about something that I heard in the bumper. James Frey about, he didn't realize his book was going to come under such journalistic scrutiny.
Because I spend most of my career in journalism, and all of this talk about truth -- journalism really isn't about getting to the truth. Journalism, at its best, kind of wades through the truth to get at the facts. And writing at its worst ignores both. And I think that's what James Frey has done. And I hope his book doesn't sell any longer. I see piles of it in every store I go in. There's just piles of it everywhere. So who knows, it probably will sell.
KING: Grafton, North Dakota, as we go to calls, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry, thanks for taking my call. I have a question for Mr. Bastone.
CALLER: What is The Smoking Gun all about?
BASTONE: We're a CourtTV-owned Web site and what we do is we obtain documents, whether they be police reports or FBI memos, mug shots, primary source documents, and we post them on our site with accompanying stories so the visitor can come and look at actual documents.
And it's a different way -- when we started the site almost nine years ago, we decided we were going to do a Web site that was paper based. So you can come and actually look at the actual documents surrounding a news story.
And hopefully you look at them and you take a look and you determine if the newsworthiness, if they're of interest to you. So it's kind of giving you a different perspective of the news than one you would get from kind of a cable television outfit or kind of a newspaper.
KING: Have you looked into the voracity of other books?
BASTONE: We have no interest in becoming the literary police. We kind of stumbled upon this one. That doesn't mean, though, that we haven't spent the last two and a half weeks fielding e-mails about virtually every author in existence, and about shortcomings of their books. But we have no plans of starting a Dragnet on the best-seller lists.
KING: Michael, what do you think of the concept of The Smoking Gun?
WOLFF: It seems incredibly boring to me, but -- and I don't know why anyone would possibly be interested in it. And I have spent the past nine years trying to avoid it. BASTONE: I'd say it's kind of interesting that Michael says that. He also avoided reading James Frey's book. So I bet it's not stopping him from commenting on it. So take that with a grain of salt.
WOLFF: Well, I seem to be the only intelligent one who avoided reading the book.
BASTONE: Ah, OK.
KING: Baltimore, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. My question is, aren't they kind of making this guy a little bit of a scapegoat? Because I saw him on your show, admit that he shopped this book as a novel. And he said he presented it to the publisher originally as a novel. And apparently somewhere along the line, someone made the decision besides him as to how to present the book once it actually got accepted for publication.
KING: Jeannette, that is correct, he said he presented it as a novel around to a bunch of publishers, they turned it down. He presented it to Nan Talese as a novel. And she suggested we go with nonfiction.
WALLS: Can I interrupt on this?
WALLS: Apparently Nan Talese has disputed that. She said that it was not presented to her as a novel. It was only presented to her as a memoir.
WOLFF: But I can add on this, that certainly across the publishing business, if you go in with a fiction, that you can in some reasonable, credible manner say is about you, is genuine, editors will say, that's a go, fiction, forget about it.
KING: We go to Colton, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi. Thank you, Larry, excuse me, thank you, Larry, for taking my call.
CALLER: I'm a recovering alcoholic addict. And I'm active in the recovering community. And this has been a very disturbing event. And I wanted to ask the panel, don't you think that an open apology to the recovering community would be in order?
KING: Do you, Carole?
RADZIWILL: Yes. I mean, I think Mr. Frey has apologized. I think Oprah certainly on her show has apologized. I think, sure, I mean everyone who is at fault should apologize. I don't know if that helps people who have read the book and who have not sought treatment because of it, or have, you know, not gone to trust their programs because of James Frey. I don't know how much that's true. But sure, I think he should apologize, and I think that he did, or certainly he will.
KING: We will take a break and be right back with more calls for Michael Wolff and William Bastone, Jeannette Walls and Carole Radziwill. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY (on phone): And I feel about "A Million Little Pieces" that although some of the facts have been questioned and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that. But the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me and I know it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book, and will continue to read this book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: One of the things I -- and I may be wrong in doing this, every one of the characters was altered. Some of the -- to protect...
WINFREY: So, OK. I think this is interesting that you keep calling them characters. Because as a reader, and trusting your story, and many times in the story you say that this is my truth, and the truth matters, and, you know. And so as a reader, I'm believing you, because it's on the bookshelf as a memoir. So why -- why didn't you just write a novel?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A good question, as they say. Back to the panel. Seaside, Oregon, hello.
CALLER: As I was wondering, as long as we may think that what James Frey has done, as I watched him on "Oprah," I felt like I was watching a human being transformed before my eyes. He began with such confidence, and then ended looking so shamed. Should we think about the safety to himself, considering his addictive past?
KING: Think so, Bill? He sure was shaken when I spoke to him later on the phone.
BASTONE: Well, I mean, I don't know how to answer that. I don't really know Mr. Frey. I would hope that he realizes that this will pass, and that, you know, I guess if he continues to kind of explain himself, it probably would be for the best. And that it's not -- you know, I don't think it's going to be something that hopefully will derail his life or his career.
KING: Do you feel responsible for bringing him down?
BASTONE: I mean, listen, we did a story. We're a news operation. You know, if it wasn't us, it might have been someone else. I mean, I think we did something that was based in facts. It was based in documents. He chose not to admit it, until today, essentially. I mean, that's what news organizations do. If it caused him some sort of discomfort, well, you know, that's what we do sometimes. It's the unfortunate part of what we do.
KING: That, you agree, Michael?
WOLFF: Well, I mean, I think the truth of the matter is -- in this instance, almost goes beyond this particular book. If you get a book that rises to the top of the best-seller list, as a matter of fact, if you have two books that rise to the top of the best-seller list, you're going to begin to play a very, very serious media game. And you're going to take punches. I mean, you're going to take punches like crazy. And some might be deserved; others won't be deserved. But you're playing in the very, very biggest leagues.
KING: By the way, Jeannette Walls -- Jeannette Walls, rather, what are you writing now? You said you're doing a novel?
WALLS: No, no, I'm not. I'm actually no good at making things up. I tried to write my memoir, fictionalized, and I couldn't do it. So I stay away from that.
KING: What's next?
WALLS: I don't know. I'm kicking around a couple of ideas. A couple of people have suggested a sequel, but I really pretty much already milked my life of everything that I have to say.
KING: Carole, what are you doing now?
RADZIWILL: I'm actually in the middle of writing a novel. And I agree with Jeannette, it's really -- it's hard to make this stuff up. And, you know, the road is littered with memoirists who want to be novelists. So we'll see. I'm also guest blogging on palace.com, www.palace.com.
KING: All right. Boston, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I want to thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: I just want to say, I haven't heard the whole program because I've been on hold, but I just want to say that, you know, at the end of the day, it's a whole issue of whether people are responsible versus vulnerable. I think this man was very vulnerable. I think his vulnerabilities played into what he wrote. I think that the risks have been that it may have helped a lot of people, and if it helps a lot of people, we at the end of the day have to figure out how many it helped, whether -- versus how many it hurt. And Oprah really wants to help people. So I think she should really go remove herself from the situation, go back to her Christian tradition, which is to not judge people, and to only let God judge, and just say at the end of the day, did it help more people than it hurt?
KING: And is that possible, Jeannette?
WALLS: Well, you know, it all comes down to the matter of the truth. And a memoir is supposed to be about the truth. And is a false hope better than no hope? If people are clinging to something that isn't true? I don't think that's serving anybody to hold out lies and say -- you know, when you write a memoir, this is what I went through, this is what happened to me. This is my experience. And maybe you can learn something from it. And if it's all false, then its greatest value is as a doorstop.
So I think that Oprah did the right thing in saying, look, I was wrong, I reacted in a very emotional way by saying, you know, that I stand behind him, but when she really stopped and looked at it, she thought, you know, you're not supposed to promote something as the truth if it's not.
KING: We'll be taking a break and coming back with more. But first, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He's going to host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at the top of the hour. I know one of his guests in the first segment is terrific, right?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Larry, you're going to be on the show. Yes, we're going to be focusing for the hour on this subject, and your caller called in saying, well, if it didn't do any harm, we're going to talk to a former counselor from Hazelton (ph) who said in fact, it has done an awful lot of harm. We'll hear his thoughts.
We're also going to continue digging into the very public confrontation today on Oprah's show. There is a lot of talk -- lots of talk about, including the particulars in the book, are there more lies that have yet to be uncovered? We're going to try to find out.
Also, what exactly did Oprah know about the book's inconsistencies and when did she know them? All that and more at the top of the hour, Larry. And we'll see you in the program too.
KING: You will. Thanks, Anderson. I'll be on at the top of the show, in the earlier portion. And that should be most interesting as one hour follows another, and we'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Are you saying the essential truth of this book, you stand by 100 percent?
FREY: Absolutely. I mean, the book is about drug and alcohol addiction.
KING: Which you were addicted to both? FREY: Yeah. Nobody's disputing that I was a drug addict or an alcoholic. Nobody was disputing that I spent a significant period of time in a treatment center.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: Whether or not the car's wheels rolled up on the sidewalk or whether he hit the police officer or didn't hit the police officer is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that he was a drug addict, who spent, you know, years in turmoil, from the time he was 10 years old, drinking and tormenting himself and his parents, and out of that, stepped out of that history, to be the man that he is today, and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves. That's what's important about this book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Minneapolis, hello.
CALLER: I find it very interesting that although this is not a political show that I'm watching, I have heard several denigrating comments about Oprah. And yet I have heard nothing, not one word about the lies that we hear from our politicians and especially our leading politician...
KING: I didn't hear anything. Did anyone denigrate Oprah on this show?
I don't believe anyone...
RADZIWILL: No, but I think the call -- I think the caller makes a very good point. I mean, I think we've gotten so used to being lied to, that we don't even recognize it when we read it. So, yes, it would be in a perfect world, we'd be talking about, you know, other lies. Unfortunately, we're talking about Mr. Frey's lies.
KING: Truthiness, as Frank Rich calls it.
KING: By the way, Bill Bastone, he said he was talking to you, James Frey, was talking to you off the record.
BASTONE: We had three interviews with him. The first two were off the record. The third one, third and final interview, was on the record. We had intended, of course, to keep the off-the-record comments off the record. A day and a half before we published our story Mr. Frey published an e-mail from us on his Web site. It was our last plea to him. We were telling him we were desirous of having a final interview, and we sketched out the things that we had discussed. And things that he had told us off-the-record and things that we had found out that ran counter to the statements that he had made to us, and to other people.
And we said, "Please, we need to sit down. We all live in Manhattan. Let's get together this weekend." And before we could publish our story, he published our e-mail on his Web site with the entire gist of our off-the-record comments on it, along with other stuff that we wrote to him about.
So he beat us to publish, you know, his side of the story, or allegations that we were going to make and his response to them. So at that point, we took that as a waiver of any confidentiality since he published it before we could. And we basically used his comments, you know, a day after he published them on his own Web site.
KING: Nashville, hello.
CALLER: My question is for Mr. Bastone. I was wondering, what exactly prompted you to question the validity of the book, and how long did it take you to compile all the inconsistencies?
BASTONE: Well, I mean, we weren't, you know, we don't target best sellers. We actually -- we had one section of our site is devoted to mug shots of well-known people.
KING: So what made you target this book?
BASTONE: A visitor wrote into our site and said, "You guys should get one of the mug shots of James Frey. You know, he's been arrested like 14 times and he was Oprah's -- he's the most recent Oprah Book Club pick."
So we thought, well, our audience knows who James Frey is, we'll just go grab a mug shot and throw it in the mug shot package. And essentially we tried to do that. And what we thought would have been a very short pursuit ended up turning up nothing initially, and we kind of got a bit curious about why we couldn't find any evidence initially of these 13 or 14 arrests, and that started us down the road.
KING: Bill, thanks -- thanks for joining us. Bill will be with us on our little panel at the beginning of Anderson's show. Michael Wolff and Jeannette Walls and Carol Radziwill will remain. And we'll be right back with our remaining moments, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: I was really behind this book because so many people seemed to have gotten so much out of it. And I believed in the fact that so many people were. But now I feel that you conned us all. Do you?
FREY: I don't feel like I conned you.
WINFREY: You don't?
FREY: Because I still think the book is about drug addiction and alcoholism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: I've been surprised by the furor related to the book, especially considering I acknowledged that I had changed things.
KING: You did at the beginning?
FREY: I have -- at various points all along the course of the publication and promotion of the book.
KING: Did you tell Oprah that?
FREY: I don't remember specifically what I told Oprah. I certainly told her producers that, you know, things were altered in the book, that I made changes to the book, that, you know, sometimes those changes were made in order to protect the identities of specific individuals.
KING: Michael Wolff, what's James Frey's writing future, do you think?
WOLFF: You know, listening to him, it seems to me that I have a proposal in that we create a new category somewhere between fiction and nonfiction and let's call it, you know, "squishyness."
I don't know. Or let's call it the memoir. Because it's a lay on that squishy land where lots and lots of people live, and judging by the way people have responded to that book, the place where lots of people want to live. That's my proposal.
KING: The new squishy novel from James Frey. Bishop, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I am impressed with the book and I have three questions. Is he an alcoholic? Was he in a recovery program? And if so, did he recover without following any of the A.A. principles?
KING: That he did, right, Carole? He did not do the 12-step program. He was an -- he is an -- you're always an alcoholic, I guess, and you're always a drug addict.
RADZIWILL: Well, an alleged drug addict, an alleged alcoholic. I don't know if he followed the 12-step program or not. I mean, those are all the questions that everyone seems so interested in. I think he will admit that he lied about a lot of the underlying facts of his emotional truth. So who's to believe what he says.
KING: Jeannette, if he invented being an alcoholic and a drug addict, that book is a monumental book.
WALLS: Well, you know...
KING: That is an incredible fiction.
WALLS: ... The thing is, that he's invented some things that are real lynch pins in the story. So I really do think that it's going to continue to collapse.
KING: How long does this story run, Michael?
WOLFF: It runs until the next story gets in its way. If there's nothing else, then it goes for a long time. But if there's something else, a girl disappearing, whatever, somebody going off a luxury liner, this story will be finished.
KING: Michael Wolff, the columnist for "Vanity Fair" magazine and one of the best in the business, always look forward to reading him. Jeannette Walls, the gossip columnist and author of her own hard-knock memoir "The Glass Castle." That book, by the way, terrific read, is available in trade paperback. And Carole Radziwill, who is on this show for "What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love." And we thank them all for being with us. And we thanked Bill Bastone earlier.
And Bill Bastone -- by the way, tomorrow night, we're going to do a major show on guilty, not guilty. A man confesses to committing a murder after he was already found not guilty. You can't do anything to him. How did that happen? That's all tomorrow night. What's happening now is "ANDERSON COOPER 360," he's up next and he's got a great guest in the first panel. William Bastone returns, I'll be on with him. Are you going to the whole hour too, on this?
COOPER: Yes, we're focusing on the whole hour, we're also taking questions. We're also going to talk to someone, an expert in addiction recovery who thinks that this book is not just filled with lies, but it's actually going to hurt people who may be seeking out help for very serious problems.
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