After the Smoking Gun report, Frey appeared on Larry King Live and defended the book’s “emotional truth.” Winfrey called in and called the Smoking Gun report ''much ado about nothing," saying the book still offered readers a powerful message about their ability to save themselves. The book’s redemptive message was true even if Frey’s tale was factually false.
After she was rightfully excoriated by many commentators. Oprah had a change of heart. She invited Mr. Frey back onto her show. She opened the show by looking directly into the camera and saying, "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 went on to expose and humiliate Mr. Frey for his lies.
Many commentators who had condemned Oprah are now applauding her. They are even wishing that Oprah could put some politicians on her couch. Some would like to put President Bush there for remarks he made on April 20, 2004 in Buffalo, two years after he started the NSA’s domestic spying without warrants. In his speech Bush stated: "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
Jonathan Alter of Newsweek points out: “This statement was false, and Bush knew it when he said it. The president lied in Buffalo, just as surely as Bill Clinton lied when he said: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.’”Of course, it’s not just politicians and authors that should be put on Oprah’s couch. It would be appropriate to put some theologians and preachers there too. It has become fashionable for some to claim that the factual truth of much of what is contained in scripture is not important. To some degree I can understand and agree with this. Truth does go beyond whether or not something is literally factual. There is such a thing as metaphorical truth. Sometimes a storyteller will say, "I don't know if it actually happened this way or not, but I know this story is true."
But often this is pushed too far. For example, it is claimed by some that the early Christians really did not care whether the tomb of Jesus was found empty or not. The important truth was that they had found that his Spirit lived on. I don’t know how any scholar can make such a claim after reading Matthew 28:11-15 or I Corinthians 15:14-15. The attitude of the early church was: “Call us liars if you must, but don’t patronize us with talk of metaphor.”
Oprah is right. Factual truth matters.
©2006 C. David Hess