Oprah Book: Ex-Employees Could Make Good Unnamed Sources

Who woulda thunk it?

The mainstream media has accepted the word of Kitty Kelley, a trash biographer who depends of unnamed sources, over Oprah Winfrey, a woman who’s obviously made too much money and been too successful as a broadcaster and philanthropist.

As of now, and thanks to the internet, Kelley’s assertions about Winfrey in her new book have been presented as a fait accompli. No one’s bothered to check them out. They’re just reprinted millions of times, from the New York Post to the Washington Post.

This column was the only one to call Oprah’s aunt in Mississippi, Mrs. Katherine Esters, to see what Kelley had wrought. And Mrs. Esters, as I wrote here yesterday, disputed Kelley’s claims. She says that Kelley manipulated and hounded her, that she never told Kelley family secrets.

It seems to fall on deaf ears.

The New York Post just laid it out, happily enough: “Lesbian fling, prostitution, and abuse lies.” That’s it, case closed. Unbelievable. Even worse: the lofty Howard Kurtz deigns to roll in the mud, writing about Kelley and using her interview with the slimy Michael Jackson hunter Diane Dimond, formerly of “Hard Copy,” to bolster his argument. Has Kurtz ever been able to book himself on Oprah? Probably not.

Kelley must be pleased. Her attempted assassination has no doubt caused the pain she sought to inflict on Winfrey. She’s endeavored to ruin a career far more substantial than her own by miles. Good work!

Kelley had a lot of help in this project. Unnamed sources are usually disgruntled ex-employees. In this case, Kelley has said she used people who’d signed confidentiality agreements. They’d have to give back their monetary settlements if they were caught.

It’s not hard to find the culprits. Oprah’s show has not had a lot of turnover, and the staff has always been treated well. But back in 1994 there was a huge amount of turmoil. Lots of people left or were fired. This could be an Agatha Christie mystery. (It was covered in Entertainment Weekly at http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,304426,00.html.)

Also, Kelley’s book is published by Crown, a division of Random House. Maybe they’re getting even. Back in 1994, Oprah abruptly canceled publication of her scheduled autobiography by Knopf, another Random House division. She returned the advance. But the decision left Random House holding the bag without its anticipated best seller.

And let’s not forget: there was some kind of manuscript or treatment from that book. It’s no doubt out there, somewhere.

Of course, the current Random House is not the company started by Bennett Cerf and run so beautifully for many years by Bob Bernstein. Kelley’s book is the kind of thing only hacks like Lyle Stuart would publish in the old days. How times have changed.

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