Now this takes some serious stones: A self-published author claims that his new book was selected for Oprah's Book Club, and even publishes the "transcript" of his appearance on her talk show, not knowing (or, perhaps, caring) that such a claim could be easily disproved. Thomas Kilduff of Boston's Weekly Dig seems to have been the first to peel this particular onion:
We called him and asked when exactly he went before a live studio audience on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
"June 18, I believe," Schneider said, "but you'll have to check with my publicist."
Schneider's publicist didn't return calls for comment, nor did the author respond to requests to elaborate on his story.
Unfortunately, Oprah's people did, and they weren't amused. I suspect that they were particularly unamused by the "transcript" of the appearance on the liar's website, which has all the verisimiltude of one of those dreams we've all had where we accept an Oscar or a Heisman Trophy. If this is an example of the liar's literary skill, it's safe to assume he won't be moving out of self-publishing any time soon:
Oprah: So fasten your seat belts… because you are about to meet the author of Crossed Paths, who flew in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts just to spend some time with us today. Please join me in welcoming Bill Schneider.
Oprah: Bill, I must tell you that I immediately fell in love with this book when I first read it.
Schneider: Thank you. Thanks very much.
Oprah: Crossed Paths is truly a gem of story. Tell me how you came to write this very poignant book.
Schneider: Well, Oprah, it’s a story that really tugged at my heartstrings… and, ah, I felt very certain about this being a story that needed to be shared....
One person who swallowed this whole is Steve Desroches, a reporter for the Cape Codder, who profiled this liar and seemed to do no fact-checking at all. Apparently nothing about the story tripped his bullshit meter. Not the fact that Oprah isn't inclined to select publish-on-demand titles. Not the fact that no one else in a very small town seemed to be talking about it. Not the fact that this best-selling author was still working for the town's tourism board. Today Desroches explains:
I think it is important that as I go about my work as a reporter to not become too cynical and to think with compassion and understanding as I learn and write about people who may be different from myself. So I’ve thought hard about this. I guess everyone lies from time to time....
What I do know is that I feel like a fool and I was taken for one. And since I guess I didn’t learn it in journalism school, I will check out the facts in my stories much more closely...
And as for the bogus transcript, well, hey, Dan Rather didn’t check out those fake documents about the Bush administration and the Iraq War.
I can only surmise that Mr. Desroches is very, very young. And his editor is equally to blame for this. But here's a tip for both of them. The liar has taken down the Oprah claim from his website (and that website should've been a clue right there), but his biography is still up there:
Bill’s analysis (primarily about the travel and the music industries) has appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Billboard, New York Times, London Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Village Voice.... Bill’s teleplays include Terror on the Thames for the BBC and Luck of the Draw for PBS.
That's quite a c.v. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to be "too cynical."