Do facts really matter? Ask Winfrey, James Frey or Stephen Colbert
By Jon Bonné
I will later regret having ever typed these words, but here goes: Stephen Colbert was right. Truthiness reigns.
Last year, the Comedy Central host eschewed truth for “truthiness”: that which might not be literally true but just feels too good to resist. (In true truthiness form, the word itself not only wasn’t coined by Colbert, but has been around since before Mark Twain invented fib-happy Huck Finn. That only made Colbert defend it even harder.)
So when Oprah struck back Thursday at her disgraced book-club golden boy James Frey for the factual holes in his memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” it was a small (and belated) but bold nudge back out of the proud halls of truthiness.
“I really feel duped,” Oprah told a sheepish-looking Frey, “but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers.”
She offered an honest apology. And at first glance, it seemed like a bold turnaround from a woman who gave Larry King a jingle two weeks ago to defend Frey’s mendacious ways, saying that the one-time drug addict “stepped out of that history to be the man he is today” — a bestselling author with a tenuous grasp on what the “non” in “nonfiction” could possibly mean.
But let’s not get too excited here. Oprah’s success has always been built on defending the obvious (philanthropists good, philanderers bad). By endorsing Frey, she not only backed the wrong horse but in fact picked a donkey to win the third at Belmont, so after a long stretch of trying to avoid that fact, it was inevitable she would have to reverse course and give Frey his comeuppance.