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Has America�s favorite talk-show host crossed a line?

Why I�m over Oprah

Ross von Metzke | March 16, 2006

OK, I know lots of people will likely be livid with me for writing this blog, particularly my roomie Charles, but after reading countless stories about the controversy with this whole Oprah Book Club scandal, I think I can finally put into words why I'm over the big O.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Oprah has done millions of wonderful, charitable deeds for the people of the world. From her work in Africa to her daily efforts at home to shine a light on the common man, I don't for one second doubt her dedication to making the world a better place.

But somewhere along the way, she lost sight of the career she started out in – journalism, and that's a shame, because for a time, she was a damn good one. In m gossip columns and opinion pieces, I get to express my opinions bluntly without fear of offending anyone or getting the facts wrong. It's my ass on the line, and if I say something offensive, I'm the only one who goes down in the end. But when I've got my journalists hat on, it's my job to remain impartial, to present the facts as I know them and create a balanced story in which all sides of the story are told. Regardless of my opinion, this is my job and my duty.

I first noticed Oprah had let her job title lax a bit when she sat down with author Terry McMillan and her now ex-husband Johnathan to talk about whether or not he indeed deceived her when he married McMillan only to come out of the closet 8 years later. For those of you who remember the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back, it's based on McMillan's real life experience of falling in love with a much younger man. So imagine her surprise when he turned out to be a homo.

I'm not saying I agree with one side or the other... hell; I frankly could care less about the plight of a multi-million copy selling author. But the interview I saw with Oprah was completely one-sided. Accusations were flung at Jonathon by both Oprah and an extremely verbally abusive McMillan right and left. Even after McMillan admitted to calling Jonathan a faggot and threatening his life repeatedly, Oprah stood by the side of her strong, black, female friend. And then, just when I thought I must be dreaming – that Oprah couldn't possibly be so one sided and biased - she whipped out a copy of McMillan's latest book and announced to her audience she had just bought the rights to make it into a movie.

Ah. So that's the answer. Oprah plays journalist until she takes a financial stake in the outcome of an interview, and then it's just business.

Moving on to this latest scandal: A Million Little Pieces, a harrowing of substance abuse and redemption written by author James Frey. We now know Frey made up a good deal of the book, lied to Oprah and his publisher about it and has since had his book deal revoked.

But before he came clean, when the accusations first started to fly, Oprah called them appalling, ridiculous, claimed they had no basis in truth. She wouldn't even entertain the possibility that a half dozen journalists could have possibly uncovered something worth looking into. Oprah didn't want to hear it.

Then Frey comes forward, and Oprah is "devastated." She says she feels betrayed, conned, she even brings the guy on her show and subjects him to a one hour verbal lashing for daring to mess with her and the people of America. But never once in this whole ordeal does Oprah bring herself into the equation. When given the opportunity to look into the accusations herself, she declined. When asked if there was a possibility Frey might be lying, she called it ludicrous. And when the truth finally came to the surface, Oprah did an about face and played the victim.

I am in no way condoning what Frey did. I would argue that, whether fact or fiction, his book probably managed to do a lot of good for a lot of people. But passing fiction off as fact is lying, and therefore, unethical.

But my bigger question is: Where's your apology, Oprah? When did you stop being a journalist... a person whose very job description implies thorough, unbiased research... and start playing the martyr? With a staff of thousands, why couldn't two or three of your peeps take an afternoon to research these claims? And, when it turned out you were wrong, why couldn't you, at the very least, own up to shoddy research? Are you above admitting fault, or just too concerned with looking the fool to admit your part, however small, in �deceiving the American people.�

As a woman in her 50's, you handled he entire thing like a child. Journalist, talk show host, doesn't matter. You're above raking people over the coals for the sake of ratings, and certainly above playing the blameless pawn in a game of chess. As the ultimate player, perhaps you should appeach the game with eyes wide open.

I will always applaud Oprah for the good she's done. In many respects, she's an angel on earth. But she is not above the laws of journalism. Connie Chung got fired from prime time news for playing fast and loose with facts and playing favorites with her guests. However much I respect her work in other avenues of her career, I'll never forget it. Hold yourself to a higher standard, Oprah. You're above B-grade journalism, and certainly above a mediocre work ethic. – Gay Link Content

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