Guest: Thomas Pakenas, Richard Bey, Jim Warren, Katrina Szish, Sara
Nelson, Andrew Goldberg, Steve Adubato, Michael Smerconish
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Oprah Winfrey says she's sorry. In an incredible hour of TV, an emotional and at times angry Oprah Winfrey apologizes to her loyal viewers for standing by a book, a book that million of Americans read, but a book that we now know is filled with lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”: I have been in television since I was 19 years old, and I have never been in this position. I made a mistake, and I left the impression that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: For millions across America, Oprah's apology and her angry cross-examination of the author was a stunning moment. And tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we will ask, has Oprah done enough to restore the confidence of her viewers?
Thanks for being with us tonight.
It's a story that so many of us in Middle America are talking about, Oprah's apology and her taking the offensive. Boy, I'll tell you what. She took James Frey to the woodshed on live television today for filling his best-seller, “A Million Little Pieces,” with exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies.
Now, for the millions who read the book thinking it was all true, it was impossible not to watch and feel as betrayed as Oprah. So, what does it mean for Oprah and the credibility of her book club? What does it mean for the publishing industry, and what does it mean for James Frey?
We will examine that with an all-star panel throughout the hour.
But, today, Oprah didn't just apologize to her viewers, she also hammered James Frey, demanding finally to get the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
WINFREY: Anybody who's read the book, you know, when you get to that, the story of him going to the dentist, and you described having two root canals without novocaine or anesthesia. Now, you said that that was true. Would you say that today?
JAMES FREY, AUTHOR, “A MILLION LITTLE PIECES”: I wrote it from memory. I...
WINFREY: OK. Let him speak. Please, let him speak.
FREY: I wrote it from memory. I had medical documents that supported it.
WINFREY: There were two root canals?
WINFREY: There were two root canals?
FREY: I—I think so, yes. I don't...
WINFREY: James, that doesn't make any sense. You wrote for, I think, two or three pages, that scene goes on, and you say there were two root canals. So, I'm asking you, were there two root canals?
FREY: As far as I remember, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, for more on the story that's rocking both the television and publishing world, let's go live to NBC's Anne Thompson. She's in New York.
Anne, it was a real day of drama for one of America's best-loved personalities. You have been covering it all day. What can you tell us about it?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my gosh, Joe, you couldn't stop watching it. It was an amazing hour of television that leaves two big issues tonight.
First of all, the first question is, has Oprah restored her credibility? And then the second question is, what will the publishing world do now? Will they improve the vetting of non-fiction works? As to Oprah's credibility, she is a billion-dollar brand and a marketing Midas. She has the ability to sell magazines, to sell books.
Her favorite things show of the gifts and the gadgets that are featured on the show, all their sales go up. About the only thing she hasn't been able to significantly impact the sales of is the Pontiac G6 that she gave away on one show.
But other than that, she really has that magic touch. Her fans, if she says buy it, her fans go out and do it. And the question is how are those fans going to react to this show? It was an extraordinary performance, to see her stand up there, and in front—on national—in front of her audience and on national TV, admit that she made a mistake, admit that she is very, very interested in getting to the truth.
She was, throughout the interview, at times embarrassed, indignant, tenacious, humbled. And she was very, very aggressive at going after the truth and getting the truth out of James Frey.
Here she is asking him about how his girlfriend, Lilly, committed suicide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
WINFREY: Let's get back to Lilly. Was your description of how she died true?
FREY: She committed suicide, yes.
WINFREY: She—she hung herself?
FREY: I mean, that—that—that was one of the details I altered about her.
WINFREY: OK. OK. And why?
FREY: Because, all the way through the book, I altered details about every single one of the characters to render them unidentifiable.
WINFREY: So, how did she die?
FREY: She cut her wrists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: She—I think one of the extraordinary things about watching this was how different it was from when she called into “Larry King” on January 11, when Frey was on that show, and she essentially dismissed all the controversy over whether he had gotten all the details right as much ado about nothing. That certainly has changed.
She also took on the publisher of the book, Nan Talese. Oprah said on the show that eight days after the book was announced as a selection in her book club, they got a call, her show got a call from a former drug counselor at Hazelden, where Frey supposedly got his treatment.
And the counselor told the producer that Frey had—wasn't telling the truth, that he had greatly distorted what happens at the treatment center. And, so, the producer sent it up the food chain. It got all the way to Oprah, and she said, look, check it out with the publisher, and they did, and the publisher stood by the book. And that's one reason why Oprah said she got led down the primrose path, just like everybody else, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, NBC News' Anne Thompson.
What a report. What a day. What a show.
Let's listen now to another dramatic exchange between Oprah and Frey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
WINFREY: It is difficult for me to talk to you, because I really feel duped. I feel duped.
But, more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers. First of all, I wanted to start with The Smoking Gun report, titled “The Man Who Conned Oprah.” And I want to know, were they right?
FREY: I think most of what they wrote was pretty accurate, absolutely.
WINFREY: Why didn't you just write a novel?
FREY: I don't think it is a novel. I don't think it's a novel.
WINFREY: I have been really embarrassed by this, and, more importantly, feel that I acted in defense of you. And, you know, as I said, my judgment was clouded, because so many people—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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I will tell you what.
At the top of the show—and I was writing this down today—Oprah said she regretted this. She immediately then said she regretted her call to Larry King. She said, I made a mistake. A second or two later, she said, I'm deeply story.
And she also said—and I'll tell you what. This is the part—and you can judge whether she was being sincere or not—this was the part I was most impressed with, where she said a lot of people have challenged me. For everybody that has challenged me, well, you are exactly right.
With me now to talk what it means for Oprah Winfrey and the publishing empire, we have radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and Steve Adubato. He's the author of “Speak From the Heart.”
Steve, I want to start with you.
Obviously, Oprah is no longer saying what she said on “Larry King Live,” that this was much ado about nothing. The question is, did she go far enough or was she playing the victim herself today?
STEVE ADUBATO, AUTHOR, “SPEAK FROM THE HEART”: Well, I have to tell you, Joe, I was prepared today to look at Oprah and say, no matter what she did, she would wind up being the big loser here.
But she's amazing. She put on a great performance. And that doesn't mean that I'm saying she was being dishonest. But I have to tell you something. She may have done all the right things in terms of what she said, but let's not kid ourselves. October 26, she did the interview with James Frey. TheSmokingGun.com had the information there for a very long time.
If Oprah and her producers really wanted to know the truth, I'm not convinced they would have called the publisher at Doubleday and asked the publisher, who's making money on the James Frey book, is James Frey telling the truth? If you really want to do investigative reporting—and Oprah is going to say, she's not a journalist, she's a talk show host.
But when you're Oprah, the standard is higher. Frankly, too little, too late. Great show today. She did a terrific job apologizing. But, frankly, it wasn't enough for me. And my wife loves Oprah, loves these two books. The entire time, my wife, Jennifer (ph), was saying, you can't believe this book. It's unbelievable. Well, apparently, it was.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Steve, it sounds like you think that maybe Oprah was just an actress today and that she was not speaking from her heart.
ADUBATO: Well, yes. And thanks for the plug on the book, Joe.
And maybe I'm jealous that she is not having me with my book on there. But I have to tell you something. I'm not saying she was acting. But, in many ways, Oprah was so indignant. And I'm thinking, where was that indignant Oprah for weeks, for months?
And, yes, you can apologize. And I guess Michael is going to say it was a great performance as well. But I'm going to say, compared to what Oprah could have and should have done, not even close.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael, she blamed everybody. She blamed Frey. She blamed the publishing industry. But we didn't get a lot of information about the fact that her own senior producers had gotten this information before from a treatment center in Minnesota that basically called them up and said, this guy's a liar.
Did Oprah go far enough or was she guilty of trying to play the victim herself?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think that Oprah Winfrey is a fan of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, because she had to have been watching the last several nights, Joe, and the reports that you have been doing, because she took a page out of our discussions.
I think she absolutely went far enough. I'm not comfortable using the P-word, presentation, for what she did today, or performance.
ADUBATO: I said performance.
SMERCONISH: I think—performance, fine.
She threw the guy under the bus, which is exactly where he belongs. And what I most respect about Oprah tonight is that it was not one of those phony apologies, Joe, one of those apologies where you say, to the extent that I have offended anyone, that I have—heck, no. She said, man, I'm sorry. I regret it.
And she tore this guy apart for a solid hour.
ADUBATO: Joe, I don't disagree with what Michael is saying.
And in terms of execution—and I do a lot of coaching of people in corporations who have issues. And I say tell the truth. But here's the thing,. Tell it quickly. Tell it concisely, telling it in a credible fashion.
And I have got to tell you, when you are Oprah Winfrey and you have millions of people hanging on every word, this book club, everything that it meant, I'm telling you, Michael I appreciate what you're saying, and I heard what you said on Joe's show last night—and, yes, she took your advice. But don't you think, if Oprah wanted to do this and do it right, she would have done it in November, in December?
And she took the initiative to call Larry King on the 11th of January, knowing all the controversy. And the response then was, this is Oprah Winfrey, 30 years in the media. She says, this is pretty much, much to-do about nothing. It was nowhere near that.
She blew it big time, Michael, and you know it.
SMERCONISH: Steve, I jumped out of my Barcalounger night that she called into “Larry King,” because I got snookered by the book. My wife recommended it to me. I loved it. I recommended it for weeks to my radio audience in Philadelphia. Our 17-year-old read it, recommended it to her friends.
So, I felt horrible. And when she called “Larry King”—and The Smoking Gun had this guy dead to rights. I was so upset with Oprah, because she took a dive. And Larry King was a disgrace with the way that he conducted that interview. But today...
SCARBOROUGH: He did.
But let's talk about today. And you have been talking about it. But I—Michael, the thing is, there are a lot of people out there that are saying tonight, well, you know, Oprah was so cynical. This was so planned. It was part of an act, because it does seem like the best thing to do in this situation is to fall on your sword.
But think about some of the greatest politicians and some of the greatest pop stars...
SCARBOROUGH: ... that weren't smart enough to do the right thing. We can talk about Bill Clinton. The guy choked on the words “I'm sorry” for the first six months in his little scandal with Monica.
And take George Bush, when asked what mistakes did you make your first term, and he couldn't think of any. There's so much ego and so much pride. I think we at least have to get her credit for stepping out there and saying it time and time again: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And you know what? If you think I screwed up, if you think I showed poor judgment, you're exactly right. That's impressive.
SMERCONISH: That's what I'm trying to say, Joe.
I think she absolutely took that path. If I may just add, there is still work to be done. And, Joe, it's “The New York Times.” Take this book off the best-sellers list for non-fiction. If James Frey and his publisher are not prepared to now recast it as a work of fiction, I want to see what “The New York Times” is going to do. I want to see what every other list in the country that ranks books by fiction or non-fiction is going to do, because the sad commentary is I think this book is selling like hotcakes tonight as a result of this. And that's terrible.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, I'll tell you what, Steve. Stay with me, because I want to get back with you and also Michael.
We are going to be talking about the publishing next with some publishing insiders. And, boy, I'll tell you what. Oprah took them out to the woodshed, whipped them around, and basically accused them of negligence.
Now, coming up next, this whole scandal started by a Web site. And we are also going to be talking to the man who broke the story the led this remarkable day.
Stay with us. SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is coming back.
SCARBOROUGH: Oprah Winfrey takes on a man who could have cost the lives of addicts across America, if all the terrible things that happened in this scandal hadn't been unfolded by The Smoking Gun. We are going to have the man that helped break this story coming up next in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back
Now, in a minute, we are going to hear from a lawyer who's suing James Frey and his publisher for fraud.
We are also going to find out what the publishing industry needs to do to clean up its act.
But, first, let's take a look at what happened when Oprah went after Frey's publisher earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
NAN TALESE, PUBLISHER: I think this whole experience is very sad.
It's very sad for you. It's very sad for us.
WINFREY: It's not sad for me. It's embarrassing...
TALESE: All right.
WINFREY: ... and disappointing for me.
WINFREY: It's embarrassing and disappointing for me.
TALESE: But I don't—I do not know how you get inside another person's mind.
WINFREY: Well, this is my point, Nan.
Otherwise, then anybody can just walk in off the street with whatever story they have, and say, this is my story?
TALESE: That is absolutely true. And people in publishing...
WINFREY: Well, that needs to change.
TALESE: No. You can't stop people from making up stories. We learn
WINFREY: You can if you're going to call it a memoir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You can't stop people from making up stories? Hey, Nan, guess what? They're call fact checkers. Look into it. You're a powerful publisher.
You can probably pay some bozo $20,000 to just pick up the phone and check facts out. That's certainly what people—write a magazine article, you write a news profile, you pay somebody, you get an intern, you call them a fact—what do you mean you can't get into people's heads?
This guy says he spends 87 days in jail, and you're telling us you can't figure out whether it's two or three? Is The Smoking Gun really that much more powerful than Random House and all the other big publishing houses in Manhattan? Of course not. It's about corporate greed. It's about the bottom line. You don't want to spend a few thousand dollars a month to have somebody checking facts for your huge publishing industry. What a stupid thing to say.
Let's now bring in Andrew Goldberg. He's with TheSmokingGun.com, who broke this story.
Andrew, you obviously have more resources than Random House and the other great publishing houses in New York City.
ANDREW GOLDBERG, THESMOKINGGUN.COM: I don't think we do.
SCARBOROUGH: How did you figure out—how did you figure—of course you don't—did you figure out what this great publishing empire was not able to figure out and get inside the head of James Frey to figure out he was a liar?
GOLDBERG: I mean, this is what we do, essentially, in our day-to-day reporting. We don't normally do stories that have this sort of effect or this sort of fallout.
But the truth of the matter is, it's basic reporting skills, which is, you follow something. If it doesn't make sense, you keep following it until you have an answer for why it didn't make sense. And that's essentially what we did here.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. Tell me, I really was—from the beginning of the time you broke this story, I was really curious. What was the first thing that tipped you off, that just didn't sound right?
GOLDBERG: Well, actually, when we first went after the mug shot, because somebody had written in, asking to see it, because he described this sort of cracked-heeled fight he was in, we couldn't find it where we thought we should find it.
And that in itself tipped us off that maybe something is wrong there. So, then the three of us, who hadn't actually read the whole book at that point, because it's three of us who do The Smoking Gun, decided to actually read it and get a much closer look at it. And, at that point, we had spoken to Frey soon after this thing. Look, we're just looking for your mug shot. We want to throw it up.
And he said, well, you don't want to look for that Ohio one. Why don't you look for the Michigan one?
And once you tell us not to look for something, well, you might as well tell us to really look for it.
SCARBOROUGH: You're going to look for it. Yes. Exactly.
Now, can you believe that, from that humble beginning, you would move to a point where you're sitting on the couch next to Oprah, you're hearing all this stuff going on, and creating what really is just one of those moments in popular culture that people will remember for years?
GOLDBERG: When we started doing this, we got further into the story, we thought, OK, this is going to be a big story. Maybe it will be on the front of the arts section of “The Times.” People will take some interest. We knew the book was very popular.
But we didn't think it would resonate with people the way it clearly has, and people would make—link it to larger issues of whether or not people actually tell the truth or apologize for things they have done or misled people about.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Andrew, you were there, right, with Oprah today?
GOLDBERG: No. No. We were not there. We were sitting in the office in New York, watching the feed from Chicago.
SCARBOROUGH: So they didn't invite you into the studio audience or anything like that?
GOLDBERG: No. None of us were invited there.
And you know what? At first, we were sort of bothered, thinking that journalists were going to be there. We wondered, why couldn't we be three of the people there? But the truth of the matter was, as it played out on the air, this was between him and Oprah. And, really, I didn't—I didn't feel that we really had a place in the ultimate show, as we watched them go back and forth and her really take him out to the shed today.
OK, Sara Nelson, let me bring you in here.
Oprah obviously apologized.
Sara Nelson, you're editor of the “Publishers Weekly.”
SARA NELSON, EDITOR, “PUBLISHERS WEEKLY”: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you agree that publishers, publishing houses, are going to have to spend more money, possibly with fact checkers, to make sure that what happened today will not happen again in the near future?
NELSON: Well, I do think that they're going to have to do something.
I'm not so sure I believe that they are going to shell out—first of all, I think it would cost more than $25,000, or $20,000, to hire a fact checker. There are 175,000 books published in this country every year. So, I don't know what percentage of those are fiction vs. non-fiction. But let's say it's half.
That's 80,000 books. I don't think you're going to get—people are not going to buy the services of fact checkers to check the facts in 80,000 books. Well, we could—one thing we could do, which would be a good idea, is publish fewer books, but that's another discussion.
I think the publishers are going to have to do something. At the very least—and this is one of the things I think that they talked about on the show today—I think that Oprah said something very clear, like this is going to have to change.
And I don't think that publishers are going to stop publishing memoirs and I also don't think that publishers are going to stop changing their idea of a memoir as one person's history. A memoir is not journalism. However, a memoir cannot hold bald-faced lies in it.
NELSON: And I think they're going to have to find a way—pay more attention to the red flags. There were a lot of red flags in this book. And if you paid attention to them, that, as we have been hearing, it only takes a couple of phone calls to start to see what's going on.
SCARBOROUGH: To figure it out.
And, Michael Smerconish, let me ask you about that, because obviously there are a lot of people in your audience, there are a lot of people across America that read this book, unfortunately, people that were weak, that were addicts. And this guy offered some advice that could have been disastrous.
So, what sort of responsibility does the publishing industry have to make sure that another James Frey doesn't pop up in a month or two?
NELSON: Can I say one more...
SMERCONISH: In this case, I think they have tremendous culpability.
And I will tell you why.
First of all, Joe, doesn't common sense dictate that if an author shows up on your doorstep and he says, I'm a junky, that you have got to go a little easy with the guy and make sure that what he's feeding to you is accurate?
And the second point—and this was not dealt with Oprah today—and I wish that it had been—is that James Frey marketed this book as fiction and couldn't get it published. And it was only when he recast it as non-fiction—and one of the stories out there is that he did that with the blessing of Nan Talese—then all of a sudden he got a deal. That is really outrageous.
SMERCONISH: That would mean that they knew from the get-go that the whole thing was bogus.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, stay with us. We are going to keep everybody with us. We are going to be exploring this from all angles.
Coming up, much more and—I'll tell you what, the showdown in Chicago, got a lot more angles to cover with us.
Stay with us. SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: She's an American icon who's beloved across the country. But will her fans forgive and forget? We are going to take you to Chicago for another angle on the Oprah story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
But, first, here's the latest news you and your family need to know.
SCARBOROUGH: The Vermont judge who sparked nationwide outrage with a 60-day sentence for a child rapist, well, today, he had a chance to right that wrong. Did he? We will let you know in a little bit.
And how did the hit movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin” get a teacher fired? We will tell you that one, too.
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—those stories in just minutes.
But first Oprah's apology today put all of us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a nostalgic mood. So, we decided to dig up some of our favorite apologies. Take a look.
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it.
Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.
JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: I have sinned against you, my lord. And I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I'm deeply sorry about that. And I apologize.
JANET JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention.
GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: Shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable. And, for this, I ask the forgiveness and the grace of my wife.
PAT O'BRIEN, “THE INSIDER”: I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry it offended people. I have gone through incredible shame. I have gone through despair, and I apologize to the people that this has offended.
REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM ®, CALIFORNIA: I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.
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.
SCARBOROUGH: It's—oh, it's so sad, so sad.
You have got to admit, looking at all those people—I mean, Bill Clinton, no doubt about it, the smoothest. He gave a false—didn't lie. I mean, that—I'm telling you, if you're going to get caught in a lie, just ask yourself, WWBD, what would Bubba do? He's smooth.
Well, was Oprah sincere about her apology, and what kind of impact is it going to have on her just mega-empire that is based out of Chicago?
Let's go to Chicago right now and talk to Jim Warren, obviously, of “The Chicago Tribune,” also Katrina Szish of “Us Weekly” and Andrew Goldberg of TheSmokingGun.com.
Jim, you have followed Oprah's career for quite some time. How do you think she do today with her apology? Will it sell in Chicago? Will it sell in Middle America?
JIM WARREN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: First, I would like to say, I'm sorry to my wife, Cornelia, my 2-year-old, Blair, for taking quality time away from them this evening and being on this split-screen so far from home.
WARREN: No, I don't think it is going to have much impact.
One real irony, guys, is that, here in Oprah land, the show is on at 9:00 in the morning. And obviously it was live. Fifteen minutes into it, the station broke in and switched from Oprah to the second most important person in America, the president of the United States and his press conference.
WARREN: So, we just saw the first 15 minutes.
And, so, based on that and the transcript I read, one has to say that this really was an amazing bit of television. I really do think she took a huge embarrassment, turned it into an absolute plus, portraying herself obviously as a dupe and a victim, and I think making a very, very, very articulate case for truth and facts in a culture which places decreasing value on it.
And, also, it's kind of interesting. I was talking to a friend who is a big fan of Oprah and Dr. Phil. If you look, if you step back and look at the structure of the way it played out, it was sort of the classic Oprah show. You had the subject who was chided, even degraded. Then he confesses to his deceits or sins or whatever. And at the very end, there is this full sort of apology, with the sort hope of self-renewal and transformation.
And I will shut up, but not before saying that, tonight, a friend popped into a Borders just a few blocks from here, Borders bookstore, and right up at the front was a table stacked high with Frey's books and lots of folks at least looking at it.
But we will see in the coming days and weeks whether they're actually buying them.
Katrina, talk about Oprah's mea culpa today. You have seen a lot of them from politicians and celebrities. You follow the celebrity side of these stories.
KATRINA SZISH, STYLE EDITOR, “US WEEKLY”: Very much.
SCARBOROUGH: How did her apology stack up with what we have seen from Janet Jackson and others?
SZISH: Well, I think anything that comes out of Oprah's mouth is very much something that everybody believes, because there definitely is an Oprah cult out there, and she is definitely one of those women who perhaps may be slightly more popular than the president currently.
And, so, anything she says and the way she says it will be believed.
Now, whether I believe it or not, that's another story.
SCARBOROUGH: Does it have an impact on her empire?
SZISH: I think it has a very small negative impact on her empire. I think if anything, now that Oprah has turned things a bit and made herself appear as the victim who was misled, just like the rest of us, it suddenly will make her legions of fans even rally even harder behind her, stronger behind her, and really think she also was a victim, just like all of us normal people out there.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you're right. I think it actually strengthens her.
SCARBOROUGH: Steve, let me ask you about the apology today. You saw the tape of—of all the others, to Elton John.
How did Oprah's mea culpa stack up with those?
ADUBATO: She's better. She's probably more sincere in a lot of ways.
But I hate to rain on everyone's parade and be a party pooper. My wife, as I said, who loves Oprah, is going to be mad for me for this.
And I am going to apologize, Jennifer (ph), for that.
ADUBATO: But I have to tell you something. Let's not kid ourselves.
October 26, that's when the show aired. It was taped weeks before that.
ADUBATO: Who are we kidding here?
You have got the people from TheSmokingGun.com there, people. Did Oprah's people call them and ask about the few hours, as opposed to the three months in jail? And when they heard that, didn't they say to themselves, wait a minute, let's ask ourselves whether we need to put a disclaimer out, whether Oprah needs to say something publicly?
So, on January 10 or 11, Oprah picks up the phone in a live program and calls Larry King, after The Smoking Gun had that information out there? Listen, she's better today than she would have been yesterday. And if she hadn't done this today, it would have been worse.
But let's be so soft on Oprah, because frankly she owed her audience, who loves is devoted to her, a hell of a lot more.
SZISH: I absolutely agree. I think that's a great point, very well said, and kind of like I was thinking.
Oprah spun this to put herself in the light of a victim. Now, she
really isn't, if you look at the reality of it, and the fact that she took
so long to give this apology, and she even basically changed her tune. She
was so behind this guy, after even sticking up for him on “Larry King,” by
· through a phone call. And, all of a sudden she's like, kind of changed my mind on that whole truth thing.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Joe, can I get in on this?
SCARBOROUGH: I'll tell you what. Stay with us, because I want to follow up with a couple of more questions.
Obviously, again, want to go back to Andrew and ask him, when did Oprah's people call? What did they ask about? Did it ever happen?
We will be back with a lot more, talking about Oprah's image. And we will talk to a former daytime talk show host and see what he thinks of the performance.
And remember the Village People? Well, now one of the members of the '70s band is on the run from the law. Uh-oh. We will explain.
SCARBOROUGH: Let's go back to our all-star panel.
And let's go right now to Andrew Goldberg with The Smoking Gun.
Andrew, did Oprah's people call you after you put all this information out there and before they aired the show?
GOLDBERG: We haven't heard from Oprah's people yet. We learned about the show that aired today the same way everyone else did, when her people issued a press release about it.
So, it was a mystery to us as much as anyone else what was going to happen today. No, we never heard from anyone from the publisher. We never heard from anyone from “Oprah Winfrey” or Harpo or anyone connected with them.
SCARBOROUGH: Jim Warren, are you surprised by that? Even after they have this information, they decide not to go to the source?
WARREN: Yes, a little surprised. But they went with some bright high-profile source, Richard Cohen from “Washington Post,” Frank Rich, who has written very, very sharply about this, also. Not at all. And Oprah's pretty controlling.
And she had decided exactly what she wanted to do and who she wanted to have on. Also had an academic of sorts from the Poynter Institute.
But if I can say, I think a question that we're sort of all bypassing a little bit—and it's been terrific so far—is what, in the world will be the whole impact of this? I mean, this is one of the most prominent, influential people in the society. And the whole question of the role of truthfulness has come to the fore in popular discussion like here, night after night. Will this have some impact?
I think, unfortunately, probably not, that I think that more and more
there are fewer and fewer penalties for deceit and fabrication. And, Joe,
we have increasingly, for a variety of reasons, become a culture in which -
· seems to value what is interesting and provocative over what's actually right.
And I think a lot of folks, including some in the publishing industry, knows that there doesn't have to be quite such a priority on facts, if you have got something that just is interesting.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Smerconish, speaking of the publishing industry, I'm going to follow up on what Jim just said about, again, not a lot of fallout, not a lot of fallout for Oprah, not a lot of fallout for the publishing industry, where we have somebody coming on, saying they can't afford fact checkers.
I mean, can you believe that she—one of the most powerful women in the publishing world says, oh, gosh, we can't get into somebody's mind, how could we ever figure this out, when all you have to do is hire a college student to fact check.
SMERCONISH: And, Joe, he's a crack head.
I have got a crack head on my doorstep with a book he wants me to publish. Hey, maybe I should take a long, hard look at it. There's something we're overlooking here tonight. I have got to make this point.
In the great Elton John montage of all the apologies, which includes Oprah, Joe, who is missing? James Frey. Where was the moment today where he looks at Oprah and says, Oprah, I am so sorry; you put your faith in me; you allowed your viewers to put all of their faith in me; and I let you down; and, for that, I am deeply apologetic?
Oprah did the—but he didn't do it.
GOLDBERG: I do agree with Michael on that.
I mean, even at the end of the show, she was asked, is there anything else you want to come—he was asked, do you want to come clean on anything else? And he basically said, you know, well...
GOLDBERG: ... the plane thing is true, and—but he didn't address whether or not he almost killed a priest in Paris.
If we wanted to get into the show, if she was really interested in doing the facts of this book, whether or not they existed or not, that could be a week's worth of “Oprah” shows. We could sit there and do it.
That wasn't what this was about, about getting to the bottom of the facts. It was about taking him out to the shed and whacking him around a little bit and saying to her audience, look, I'm standing up for you at the end of the day.
SMERCONISH: Andrew, he's still not giving you access to his medical records, is he? Because, if he gives Smoking Gun access to the medical records, the whole thing goes kaboom.
SCARBOROUGH: It all unravels.
Let me bring in Richard Bey right now.
Richard, you know a lot about daytime TV. What kind of danger is there to Oprah in the future? Do you agree with Jim Warren, not a whole lot, because she's just so big and powerful?
RICHARD BEY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think there's a lot of danger to her. And I think to put this in perspective, in the last week or so, both Osama bin Laden and President George Bush have recommended books to the American public to read.
And although some of—bin Laden's book went up the charts on Amazon, neither of them reached the scope of Oprah's influence on the reading public in America. I also think what's important to remember here is that Oprah now has turned her back on emotional truth and recognized that emotional truth is not factual truth.
Now, in daytime television, perhaps the currency of daytime television is more focused on emotional truth than it is on factual truth. But you have to remember as well that there is precedent for this. Jack Paar, in the days when Castro took over Cuba, was lauding him as a freedom-loving patriot, a national hero.
And then when it turned out that he became a communist dictator, Jack Paar had to come on television and almost break into tears and apologize for what he had done before.
SCARBOROUGH: Uh-oh. Exactly.
BEY: It didn't hurt him.
SCARBOROUGH: If only we could get David Letterman to do the same thing about Cindy Sheehan.
Let's bring in Thomas Pakenas.
Thomas, this ain't over for you, is it? You have actually filed a class-action lawsuit against Frey and the publishing house. Tell us about it.
THOMAS PAKENAS, ATTORNEY SUING FREY & DOUBLEDAY: Well, it's under the consumer fraud statute here in Illinois. We believe there were material misrepresentations made about whether or not the book was fiction vs. non-fiction.
SCARBOROUGH: You can sue somebody for that?
PAKENAS: You bet you can. You go out and if somebody sells you a cashmere jacket and you believe it's a cashmere jacket and it turns out to be polyester, that's consumer fraud. And that's exactly what this gentleman and his publishers did.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Smerconish, how does that sound to you? You're a trial lawyer.
SMERCONISH: Well, first of all, I'm wearing a jacket with the label cut out of the back of it, so I don't know much about cashmere jackets, but I love the idea of somebody getting Frey under oath.
Man, Joe, if there's a way to get that done, I think that would be terrific.
SCARBOROUGH: Katrina Szish, let me give you the final word here.
SZISH: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: What do you think the long-term impact's going to be for the publishing industry?
SZISH: For the publishing industry, I think that there will be a lot more questions raised. People will be watching their backs a lot more.
But I think what we're talking about here, is it going to affect Oprah? And you know what? Not at all. She's got her fans, her legions of fans. And they're got going anywhere.
SCARBOROUGH: And you agree with that, Jim Warren, don't you?
WARREN: Oh, yes. And I think more and more less of a value placed on truth, more on just simply being interesting.
And I think what's really important and what we're missing a little bit, at the end of the show, James Frey did admit to lying and did look into the camera and tell Oprah and that national audience that he hopes he can turn this experience into something positive, become a better person, which is why I suspect, another year from now, James Frey will be back strong and he will be writing a confessional.
And he will be interviewed by Barbara Walters or on “60 Minutes.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And “Dr. Phil.”
WARREN: And all will be well, because there's not much difference between good publicity and bad publicity. It's all publicity.
SZISH: And then maybe he will finally say he's sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: Unfortunately, not anymore in America.
Thank you all so much. Greatly appreciate it.
SZISH: Thanks, Joe.
Let's bring in Tucker Carlson right now who, I'll tell you what. He who brings American great insights every night, never embellishes, never lies, tells it like it is.
Tucker, tell us about the most embarrassing apology you have ever had to make.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”: Well, after the three years I spent in prison for beating up cops outside a bar in Ohio—no.
SCARBOROUGH: You were such a real man, Tucker.
CARLSON: I'm not into confessionals at all.
Jim Warren said something very smart just a second ago, which is the story here is not so much what is going to happen to Oprah. She will be fine.
But what is going to happen to James Frey? Will he be able—will he haunt our dreams? Will he come back with yet another memoir? That is the fear.
We are also going to have another ambulance chaser on our show who also is suing on behalf of people who read this self-help book, as if all self-help book aren't phony. They are. But we are going to talk to him about why he expects money for his clients who read this book.
SCARBOROUGH: Ambulance chaser.
SCARBOROUGH: You are such a conservative, Tucker Carlson.
CARLSON: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks for being with us.
And make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER” coming up next at 11:00 p.m.
Still to come tonight, decision day for the Vermont judge who sentenced a child rapist to just 60 days in jail. What did he do today, and was it enough?
Plus, tonight's “Joe's Schmoe”—or shall we say “Schmoes”?
Stay with us. We are coming back.
SCARBOROUGH: Wait no longer, my friends. It is time for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media's radar, but not ours.
Our first stop tonight, Burlington, Vermont. The judge who sentenced a convicted child rapist to just 60 days in jail, he has changed his mind. Judge Edward Cashman resentenced Mark Hulett, the rapist, to three to 10 years in jail. Still, some Vermont lawmakers say that ain't enough, and they still want the judge to step down. Don't you?
And our second stop is Lexington, Kentucky, where a teacher was shown the door for showing too much to his high school Spanish class. He showed an uncut version of “The 40 Year Old Virgin” to students as a reward after their tests. The DVD features some scenes that were actually too hot for the R-rated theater release. So, parents complained. And the teacher, he got the axe.
And our final stop is Redwood City, California, where the cop from the Village People is on the lam. Facing jail, Victor Willis skipped a sentencing hearing today for drug- and gun-related charges. Willis faces up to 16 months in prison. He's best known for his part in the hits like “YMCA” and “Macho Man.” He left the group when those outfits were still cool.
And we will be right back with tonight's “Joe's Schmoe.”
Plus, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” that's just minutes away.
And he'll actually show you the dance steps to “YMCA.”
SCARBOROUGH: Download me. Just go to iTunes and get your free podcast.
And we will be right back with tonight's “Joe's Schmoe.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Sir, back on lobbying, never mind about the photographs, but can you say whether...
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. That's easy for a radio guy to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Actually, that was one of the several questions, but about the funniest answer about photos of President Bush and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in today's White House press conference.
Now, President Bush pointed out—because these guys kept asking about pictures taken with the president and Abramoff. But the president pointed out that he takes photos with lots of people, people like—you know, these are—these are standard White House procedures at Christmas parties and receptions.
And let me tell you, I go to these Christmas parties. I went as a congressman, go now as somebody in the media. And I can tell you, most of those guys in the room asking questions, they got their pictures taken with the president, too, probably three or four times. What a joke. They're “Schmoes.”
That's all the time we have for tonight.
“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now.
Hey, Tucker, what's the situation?
CARLSON: Joe, schmoe, underused word.
SCARBOROUGH: It is.
CARLSON: I'm going to make a point of using that word at least twice in this show.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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