We're obsessed in today's world with facts. Every syllable uttered by people in positions of power is put under a microscope, and we, the general public, love nothing more than to have subterfuge reveal in the media spotlight.
I don't think James Frey did the right thing. Ideally, he would have either published the book as fiction or as memoir with a hefty author's note. But it was 2001, and then 2003 and then 2006. It was the times, I'm telling you. It was the times.