The Blackballing of Kitty Kelley's Oprah Bio
Why Larry King, Charlie Rose, David Letterman and Barbara Walters all said no.
There is a serious backstory to the story of O. The first thing you need to know is that there was great surprise in the publishing world that such a book could even be done. Oprah, being the doyenne of making or breaking books, was thought to be immune from an unauthorized biography because … well, she is the doyenne of making or breaking books. Kitty Kelley was probably the only author whose name and track record could convince a publisher to take the leap. (And we’re not talking Grace’s Storm Door and Publishing Company; we’re talking Random House.)
Kelley is generally thought of as an "Uh-oh" writer. That is, when she announces she is writing a book about X, the response is "Uh-oh," usually on the part of the subject. For the rest of us, the "Uh-oh" signifies: "This is gonna be good. It may be down and dirty, but it will be true, and it will be good." If there is hidden history to be gotten, Kelley will get it. Some people belittle her work as muckraking that is perhaps fanciful, if not far-fetched, but that is because they can’t believe that there are facts about a famous person which have heretofore not been known. Let’s put it this way: Frank Sinatra, when she was writing her book on him, was so, um … displeased that he threatened to have her killed. And she’s never been sued successfully. For her biography about Oprah, she did 850 interviews. Eight hundred and fifty! (In my news days if I contacted four people I thought I had really worked my tail off.) Her work is that of a hybrid researcher/historian, and whatever she writes you can take to the bank. She is in no way an academic, which is probably the reason her books sell in the millions.
The second thing you need to know about this book is that most of the kingpin interviewers in the mainstream media were astonishingly up front about saying they would not help Kitty promote her book because they didn’t want to offend Oprah! They didn’t even make up excuses; they flat-out said they didn’t want to offend Oprah. It was surprising, to say the least, that interviewers such as Larry King, Charlie Rose, David Letterman and Barbara Walters all shut her out. Walters’s turn-down was especially interesting in that she said she wouldn’t even have Kelley on "The View." I mean, that’s a show with four or five babes nattering on, where no guest is on for more than maybe seven minutes. Walters told Random House publicity she didn’t want to "upset" Oprah. Letterman said he didn’t want to "disrupt" his détente with Oprah. And ABC, whose name might as well now stand for "All ‘Bout Cowards," made an across-the-board decision that Kelley’s book would be boycotted by all ABC shows. Even second-tier people like Joy Behar followed suit. And Rachael Ray! A cooking show, no less.