You Don’t Mess Around with Oprah

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,
you don’t spit into the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger,
and you don’t mess around with…Oprah, da do da do…

Ok, I admit that’s not how the song really goes. But if you happened to catch the Oprah Winfrey show on Thursday (I did not, mind you) and saw “A Million Little Pieces”author James Frey face an angry Oprah and a studio audience consisting of mostly p.o.’ed post-menopausal women, you may have caught yourself singing it this way.

It turns out that Oprah has had second thoughts since calling in on the Larry King Live Show and defending Mr. Frey’s million little lies as “essential truth” which “resonated” with her and stating for the record that the flap over Mr. Frey’s fabrications was “much ado about nothing.” I’m sure Oprah has searched her soul over those comments, and the 5-1 contra Frey emails and phone calls probably helped that process along a little.

After confessing her lack of judgement in making that phone call and in being “duped” by Mr. Frey’s phony confessions, Oprah, bolstered by her booing, catcalling fans, proceeded to publicly excoriate (some would say emasculate) Frey for his sins. Frey, for the most part, sat there and took it like a man. He eventually admitted that he had lied to Winfrey and her legions of fans and promised not to do it again.

Oprah also took a few shots at Frey’s publisher and was helped along by a few sanctimonious, pontificating guests from the publishing world who curried a little favor by congratulating Oprah for coming clean then proceeded to weigh in heavily on “why such things as this should never happen.”

The New York Times has a good piece on what happened on yesterday’s show if, like me, you happened to miss it.

So, with the entire country “teetering on the edge of falsehood,” Oprah has once again saved the day. As for Frey, he’s learning a hard lesson about living life in the eye of the American public–lie to them (or to a power-broker billionaress) and get caught and there’ll be a million pieces of hell to pay.

But if he hangs in there, he may also discover another interesting fact about public life in America–say you’re sorry (and say it over and over and over) and eventually there may be redemption–the proverbial second chance–at the end of the guantlet.

With everybody now piling one, look for signs of public sympathy shifting his way. If Mr. Frey is a sharp cookie (and fibs notwithstanding, I’d bet he probably is), then there may be another book deal in here somewhere. He probably doesn’t need my help, but, what the heck, here goes:

  • “A Million Little, Medium and Large Lies–My Life as a Chronic Fabricator and How I Overcame”


  • “How I Faced A Mob of a Million Angry Women and Survived”

Look for one of these in the best-seller section of a bookstore near you soon. But don’t count on it being featured in Oprah’s Book Club.

You laugh, but it could happen. As Yakov Smirnoff says, “America: What a country!”

  1. scott

    I’ve been an Oprah basher for years. But after yesterday’s show my respect for her increased (granted, that’s not saying much).
    I saw it and found her to be sincere and genuinely embarrased for having made the Larry King call. She said repeatedly that she was wrong and thanked those that called her out on it. I respect that.
    It is what I have wanted GW to do with the WMD’s for a long time.
    You are right we are an extremely forgiving nation.

  2. mike


    I agree that Oprah deserves some credit. Oprah, God love her, is a very influential woman in this country and her doing the right thing here (albeit highly scripted in typical media fashion) is sure to have some positive ripples.

    Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg? One of the popular snapshots there is to have your picture taken in the public stocks used to punish the petty criminals of the day by forcing them to stand and endure the insults, rotten vegetables, and other unsavory substances flung their way.

    Maybe Oprah’s show yesterday was the modern day equivalent of the stocks. I had a professor at Harding who felt that we needed to bring back public executions. I wouldn’t go that far, but a few more “public floggings” like the one Oprah dished out yesterday might be in order.

  3. Scott Freeman

    She did rake him over the coals. Make her an American Idol judge and sit her next to Simon.

  4. mike

    She might be just the one to put Simon in his place!

  5. contratimes

    Mike, Mike, Mike!

    This is thoroughly off topic, but your comment at Occasional Outbursts (re: The Letter to Jesus/Korea), was simply stunning. You should not balk for one second to work that into a post here.


  6. Hoots Musings

    I am wondering when Oprah is going to come clean about the lies she has broadcast regarding Hurricane Katrina?

    If I remember correctly, wasn’t it Oprah who stood alongside Ray Nagin and spoke of death to children, rapes and murders in the Superdome? It was bad in there, but it was not true.

    Also, why did Oprah have the likes of New York Times reporters on her stage? The NYTimes has no credibility with me since Jason Blair.

    Oprah has created a following that is a lot like a cult. Personally, the day she had some lady on who said hardened criminals are misunderstood and need a creative outlet to express themselves. I was floored and I lost respect for her since that day.

  7. mike


    I just haven’t really followed her much over the years, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear some of the things you’re saying.

    I suppose in this instance she does deserve some credit for admitting her mistake, although my respect for her would be even greater if she would have shown some discernment beforehand rather that after she was been burned and publicly embarrassed (I heard one report that her staff did have some indication that there were holes in Frey’s account prior to his first appearance on the show).

  8. mike


    Thanks, I appreciate that. That was difficult to write and to send since I am by nature a “lover, not a fighter!” But as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time and place for both.

    I also know, because I am wide awake and sober in thought (most of the time), that under certain difficult and regrettable circumstances, “love of neighbor” can necessitate giving one a taste of his own medicine.

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