'A Million Little' Lies?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: James Frey's disputed memoir "A Million Little Pieces" remains at the top of the bestseller list. It's sold about two million copies despite debate over its truthiness. Frey admitted stretching the truth just a bit in the book. And one reader is so angry, she is suing. Jane Skinner is here with that story.

JANE SKINNER, CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it is a class-action suit. The plaintiff's lawyer says it was filed on behalf of this reader and others who bought the book expecting it to be true, as advertised. So, does this case have any kind of shot in court?

Thomas Pakenas is the lawyer for the reader and joins us now from Chicago. Mr. Pakenas, how was your client harmed in all this?

THOMAS PAKENAS, LAWYER FOR "PIECES" PLAINTIFF: Well, she spent money for the book, she put time into reading it and she also had an emotional investment when she thought it was a true story.

SKINNER: Well, why not make it simple and just have her by herself ask for the $22.95 or whatever it was she may have spent for the book back?

PAKENAS: Well, beyond that she also has a moral compass. And she wants to alert the general public as to what may be going on here. And she is also asking for maybe a repackaging of the book, or some sort of a disclaimer.

SKINNER: But the publisher has said that we are going to have the writer put a writer's note into it and probably reclassify it because of all the media attention. Don't you think people know, they're alerted to the fact that memoirs may not be so truthy, I guess, as John said?

PAKENAS: According to, even Larry King, everybody I talked to said memoirs are nonfiction. That seems to be the bottom line.

SKINNER: Tell me about the goal. I assume you are looking for monetary damages outside of that $22.95?

PAKENAS: Well, it's going to be up to the court to decide what the exact damages are. I talked about searching for the truth. Anyone who is in the same position as my client and feels they were cheated or fooled into buying this book — and like I said, repackaging of the book — and, of course, they said they are going to do a lot of things. I have also heard they said they're going to be given the money back.

But everything I have seen on the Web sites says the publisher is going to rely on the booksellers to do it. Wednesday afternoon we called a bunch of booksellers and took an informal poll and as long as it was purchased within the last 30 days, they will give you your money back. But any time beyond that, which is what happens with any book ...

SKINNER: Let's talk about what kind of shot you will have in court. As you know, courts have been reluctant to weigh in on publication. When we are talking about the weighing the truthfulness of words, it's not as easy as if you're trying to sell a car, you can see if the parts are there as advertised. It's difficult when you're talking about words. What makes you think you have any shot at all?

PAKENAS: Well, it's not the words within the book that we are debating the truthiness of, it's the promotion of the book. The suit is filed under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. The Illinois Consumer Fraud Act is a very simple act and states if there is material misrepresentations of fact and that the book seller or the person who makes the item intends on deceiving the person and that the person is harmed by that deception, in this case, my client, and it seems there is a lot of people out there who feel they were taken advantage of and they bought the book, because this gentleman went on television multiple times, was interviewed in multiple publications and he proclaimed the truthiness, as it were, of his book.

SKINNER: All right. Attorney Thomas Pakenas, we'll keep an eye on it. Thanks for being here.

PAKENAS: Thank you.

SKINNER: Back to you.

GIBSON: Steven Colbert is going to love that truthiness. All right. Thanks a lot, Jane. Appreciate it.

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