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Michael Smerconish Headshot

Oprah and James

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Two people were on Oprah today.

One expressed remorse, embarrassment, sorrow, and even gave credit to critics. Another sat impassively, and nearly needed to be water-boarded to admit the truth.

Hopefully James Frey will go home and watch the tape and learn from the example that Oprah set for him - for all of us - today.

Oprah more than vindicated herself in one of the most amazing hours of television I have ever seen.

The last time I had the flexibility to watch afternoon television on a regular basis was in a college dormitory in the mid-1980's. (I have a vague recollection of watching Luke marrying Laura.) Ever since, it's been a combination of work and kids that have kept me from the tube during that day part.

Consequently, I am not an Oprah watcher. Recently, however, I have become an Oprah basher. Not so much because of what she has said on her show, but because of what she failed to say on Larry King's program when she telephoned during his interview with James Frey.

On CNN that night, Oprah took a dive. She protected Frey when she should have buried him, and I've spent the last few nights saying so on Joe Scarborough's program on MSNBC.

Today, for the first time ever, I watched Oprah. James Frey's return to the stage that made him famous was appointment worthy. I'm glad I saw it. It was more than just great television. It was a study in character. Sadly, not Frey's; he remains a lost sole, clinging to semantics in the face of contradiction. But Oprah was the bomb.

In a world of the phony apologies, the kind that usually begin with someone saying "to the extent that I have offended anybody", the lady pulled no punches.

She said she'd never been in such a position. She said she was deeply sorry. She said her critics were absolutely correct to hold her accountable. She said she felt duped. And then, unlike Larry King, she confronted Frey on details of the book that the millions of us who read it, wanted discussed.

In short, Oprah was everything we hoped James Frey would have been.