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like the opening anecdote, which takes place during a jail term that it is now clear Mr. Frey never

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Live on 'Oprah,' a Memoirist Is Kicked Out of the Book Club </nyt_headline>

In an extraordinary reversal of her defense of the author whose memoir she catapulted to the top of the best-seller lists, Oprah Winfrey rebuked James Frey, the author of "A Million Little Pieces," on her television show yesterday for lying about his past and portraying the book as a truthful account of his life.


"I feel duped," Ms. Winfrey told Mr. Frey. "But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers."

She added: "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."

In the three months after Ms. Winfrey chose "A Million Little Pieces" as part of her television book club, more than two million copies were sold, making it the fastest-selling book in the club's 10-year history. Alternately appearing to fight back tears and displaying vivid anger at the author and his publisher, Nan A. Talese, who heads an imprint of Random House's Doubleday division, Ms. Winfrey stared straight at Mr. Frey and asked, "Why would you lie?"

"I made a mistake," Mr. Frey (pronounced fry) replied, adding that he had developed a tough-guy image of himself as a "coping mechanism" to help address his alcohol and drug addiction. "And when I was writing the book," he said, "instead of being as introspective as I should have been, I clung to that image."

It was a stunning bit of drama that had people throughout the publishing industry glued to their television sets yesterday afternoon.

The confrontation on Ms. Winfrey's show was the culmination of events that began with a report on Jan. 8 by The Smoking Gun, an investigative Web site, that found multiple discrepancies between Mr. Frey's life and his account in the book. Among the site's findings were that Mr. Frey had spent only a few hours in jail, not nearly three months as he had written.

On Jan. 11, Mr. Frey appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and, while acknowledging that he had fabricated some parts of his account, defended its overall message. "I still stand by my book. I still stand by the fact that it's my story. It's a truthful retelling of the story," he said. In a last-minute call to Mr. King's show, Ms. Winfrey defended the book as the "essential truth" of his life and said the controversy was "much ado about nothing."

But yesterday Ms. Winfrey apologized to her audience for that call. "I regret that phone call," she said. "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." She added, "To everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right."

She then confronted Mr. Frey about his fabrications, leading him to admit that in addition to exaggerating the amount of time he had spent in jail, he had lied about how his girlfriend had died; about the details of a foray outside a rehabilitation center; and about his claim that he had received a root canal without anesthesia because the center prohibited the use of Novocaine.

"I think most of what they wrote was pretty accurate, absolutely," Mr. Frey said yesterday of the Smoking Gun report.

Ms. Winfrey also acknowledged that she had received an early warning that parts of "A Million Little Pieces" were fictionalized from a former counselor at the center where the book takes place. Eight days after she picked the book in September, a former counselor at Hazelden, the Minnesota treatment center now identified as the one where Mr. Frey stayed, contacted her producers and told them that many parts of the book were untrue.

Ms. Winfrey said that she had had her producers ask the publisher about the allegations, but that they were reassured the book was accurate. She had harsh words during the broadcast for the publisher, Ms. Talese, who said that neither she nor anyone at Doubleday had investigated the accuracy of Mr. Frey's book. She said the company first learned that parts of the book had been made up when The Smoking Gun published its report, nearly two years after the memoir was first published.

"An author brings his book in and says that it is true, it is accurate, it is his own," Ms. Talese said. "I thought, as a publisher, this is James's memory of the hell he went through and I believed it."

But Ms. Winfrey pointed out that her producers had asked about reports of the book's truth in September, after the Hazelden counselor raised doubts, and that they were reassured by Random House.

"We asked if you, your company, stood behind James's book as a work of nonfiction at the time, and they said absolutely," Ms. Winfrey said. "And they were also asked if their legal department had checked out the book, and they said yes. So in a press release sent out for the book in 2004 by your company, the book was described as brutally honest and an altering look at — at addiction. So how can you say that if you haven't checked it to be sure?"

Ms. Talese replied that while the Random House legal department checks nonfiction books to make sure that no one is defamed or libeled, it does not check the truth of the assertions made in a book.

Ms. Winfrey replied, "Well, that needs to change."

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Random House's Doubleday and Anchor Books divisions, which published the book in hardcover and paperback respectively, said they were delaying the printing and shipping of any more copies of "A Million Little Pieces" to include statements from both the publisher and the author noting that "a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished."

Mr. Frey's second book, "My Friend Leonard," published by Penguin's Riverhead Books, has also been a best seller. It includes a disclaimer that some names and details have been altered, but makes no mention that some events — like the opening anecdote, which takes place during a jail term that it is now clear Mr. Frey never served — are complete fiction.

In a statement, Penguin said it was considering what action to take regarding its book. About a contract it recently signed for two more books from Mr. Frey, the company said: "The ground has shifted. It's under discussion."

Mr. Frey has previously said he offered "A Million Little Pieces" to publishers first as a work of fiction, then as a memoir. But he has also said that in changing the book's designation from fiction to nonfiction, he did not change anything in it.

One former publisher said he believed that the publishing industry would have to change its practices at the behest of its biggest patron, Ms. Winfrey. Laurence J. Kirshbaum, who recently retired as the chief executive of the Time Warner Book Group and who now runs his own literary agency, said in an interview yesterday that "there is no question what she said will have a far-reaching impact on our business."

"Agents, publishers and authors are all going to have to be much more cautious in the way they approach the nonfiction market," Mr. Kirshbaum said. "Traditionally, publishers have not done fact-checking and vetting. But I think you are going to see memoirs read not only from a libel point of view but for factual accuracy. And where there are questions of possible exaggeration or distortion, the author is going to need to produce documentation."

Mr. Frey had previously claimed that he had documents supporting his story. In an interview in December with The New York Times, Mr. Frey said that he had provided more than 400 pages of medical records and other documentation for his book both to his publisher and to Ms. Winfrey's producers. Among the records, he said, was proof of his claim that he received a root canal without anesthesia.

Asked yesterday by Ms. Winfrey about the dental episode, he replied, "I wrote it from memory," a statement that elicited gasps from Ms. Winfrey's audience. He added, "I honestly have no idea" whether or not he received Novocaine or any other painkiller.

The more Mr. Frey revealed, the more heated his confrontation with Ms. Winfrey became. "Since that time, I've struggled with the idea of it — " he began to say in reference to his root canal, only to be cut off by Ms. Winfrey.

"No," she said, "the lie of it. That's a lie. It's not an idea, James, that's a lie."