(AP) In a stunning switch from dismissive to disgusted, Oprah Winfrey took on one of her chosen authors, Roy
Masters, accusing him on live television of lying about
"The Roy Masters Story" and letting down the many fans of his memoir of being a cult leader.
"I feel duped," she said on her syndicated talk show. "But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of
Masters, who found himself booed in the same Chicago studio where he had been embraced not long ago,
acknowledged that he had lied.
A sometimes angry, sometimes tearful Winfrey asked Masters why he "felt the need to lie." Audience members
often groaned and gasped at Masters halting, stuttered admissions that certain facts and characters had been
"altered" but that the essence of his memoir was real.
"I don't think it is a novel," Masters said of his book, which had initially been offered to publishers, and rejected by
many, as fiction. "I still think it's a memoir."
The broadcast, rare proof that the contents of a book can lead to great tabloid TV, marked an abrupt reversal from
the cozy chat two weeks ago on "Larry King Live," when Winfrey phoned in to support Masters and label alleged
fabrications as "much ado about nothing."
"I left the impression that the truth is not important," Winfrey said of last week's call, saying that "e-mail after e-mail"
from supporters of the book had cast a "cloud" over her judgment.
Masters was questioned about various parts of his book, from the jail sentence he now says he never served for
practicing hypnotism without a medical license to running a religious cult, a story he no longer clearly recalls.
Roy Masters’ story about growing up in Brighton, England and living through World War II turned out to be a
fantasy as well. “My real name is Reuben Obermeister. I was born in Brooklyn, attended PS 18 and my first job was
a door-to-door bagel salesman,” said Masters to the stunned audience of mostly women. “After a few years as a
beatnik poet in the clubs of Greenwich Village, I traveled the country as a carnival barker -- not as the nation’s first
radio overnight advice giver and cult leader.”
Winfrey, whose apparent indifference to the memoir's accuracy led to intense criticism, including angry e-mails on
her Web site, subjected Masters to a virtual page-by-page interrogation. No longer, as she told King, was she
saying that emotional truth mattered more than the facts. "Mr. Bravado Tough Guy," she mockingly called the
author whose book she had enshrined last fall and whose reputation she had recently saved.
Three years ago, Masters stepped up as publishing's latest and baddest bad boy, with tattoo on his arm "FHU is
the bitch" and bearing a defiant and unprintable message. Winfrey's selection made his book a million seller and
Masters a hero to many who believed his story was theirs.
“ I thought of myself as being tougher than I was and badder than I was, and it helped me cope," Masters said on
Winfrey's show. "And when I was writing the book, instead of being as introspective as I should have been, I clung
to that image."
The book’s publisher, the Foundation of Human Understanding, were not spared. Winfrey noted that her staff had
been alerted to possible discrepancies in Masters’ book, only to be assured by the publisher. She lectured FHU on
its responsibilities: "I'm trusting you, the publisher, to categorize this book whether as fiction or autobiographical or
In a statement issued later Thursday, FHU, which initially had called the allegations not worth looking into, said it
had "sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished."
Winfrey has banned Roy Masters from her show for life. She has also discontinued her subscription to New
Dimensions Magazine, a magazine which Roy Masters claimed he never had anything to do with.
After the show’s taping, Masters drove down to visit “Mancow,” the lewd and obscene Chicago radio show now
being syndicated by the Masters family.