So Kitty Kelley is now going to write a biography of Oprah Winfrey. The unnamed and unscheduled book will be published by Crown, a division of the Random House empire. Her 2004 book about the Bush family, which alleged that President George H. W. Bush had had affairs, that President George W. Bush had snorted cocaine at Camp David, and that Laura Bush had smoked and sold dope in college, was published by Doubleday, the more respectable Random House imprint. Crown is definitely a comedown: Its lead spring title is "And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives." Maybe Doubleday -- a very serious list -- didn't want Kelley running down the neighborhood.
Kelley has written a series of celebrity biographies over the years, usually filled with startling allegations attributed to anonymous sources, such as that Nancy Reagan had had an affair with Frank Sinatra and that Elizabeth Taylor had aborted a pregnancy by Sinatra. Her Bush cocaine allegations were never substantiated, by her or anyone else, and her reporting methods have been called into question. (Her answers when I questioned her did not inspire confidence. Here is my 2004 story.) Time and Newsweek refused to give the Bush book any serious coverage, and even Larry King rejected her as a guest.
Perhaps this book will be a long fan letter, but I doubt it. If past books are an indication, Kelley will write that certain unimpeachable sources have told her that Oprah Winfrey has done any number of scandalous things in her life. Winfrey won't be able to disprove the allegations, because Kelley's account will lack details as to time and place and the sources will be hidden from other reporters. And Winfrey won't be able to win a libel suit, because she's a public figure.
If I were Random House or Kitty Kelley, however, I would not want Oprah Winfrey for an enemy. She could bring on her show all the people who have been attacked or offended by Kelley's books, including some who might offer a few true tales about the author, and turn the women of America against her for keeps. And there might never be another Random House author picked for Oprah's Book Club.