James Frey ... We Just Can't Quit You

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Much credit to former CBS News honcho Don Hewitt-and not just for admitting he would have fired Dan Rather as well as Mary Mapes for the "fake but accurate" Texas Air National Guard piece. The man deserves a reward for stating the obvious while participating in Court TV's "Truth in media and publishing" panel last week, which also included New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, Smoking Gun Founder and Editor William Bastone, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, Sir Harold Evans and was moderated by Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly. Said Hewitt: "The world is teetering on the brink of disappearing and here we're talking about Oprah."

Amen, Don. How much navel-gazing will James Frey cause? As Peyser pointed out, few people outside of media centers care about "what it all means," and Frey's book is still selling like crack-laced hotcakes.

But, hey, since we were there, no point in not discussing the event, right?

Surprisingly for a Court TV event, VP-Ad Sales Charlie Collier didn't get off the funniest lines. Cohen and Evans seemed to vie for the wise-guy title. At one point, Cohen, in describing his actions leading up to his Oprah appearance said, "The night before, I was watching `Scarborough."' Evans countered. "Now that's an addiction." To which Cohen replied, "Well, sometimes you can't get porn in hotels."

Cohen, remarking on reporters with political biases, said he was amazed at the number of reporters who have "no political agenda. No politics. No values. No morals. ... They're sort of primitive organisms ... all they want to do is devour facts."

And after Jim Kelly suggested that, because of fact checkers, TV, newspapers and magazines might be more accurate than books, Evans called TV "a nightly pollution" and fact checkers "an American luxury." This had Cohen wondering why the book-publishing industry couldn't "afford one guy for $40,000?"

Ultimately, Cohen said, the industry's biggest problem is that it's "full of people who go to lunch and don't edit." Which made everyone in the room sort of look around nervously, clearing their throats.

Coors lacks A-list game

Pete Coors apparently has a thing or two to learn about acting like a "somebody." FHM was among the many companies throwing Super Bowl parties the week before the big game. There was no shortage of A-listers and athletes coming through the door: Stevie Wonder, Gabrielle Union, Chris Berman, top-draft prospect Reggie Bush, boxer Lennox Lewis and more current and former NFL players than you could shake a stick at.

And then came beer guy and politician Pete Coors (Molson was a sponsor). Coors apparently stood in line with the regular proles, waiting for his chance to get in. Luckily, someone noticed and alerted him to the fact that important people don't wait in line at celebrity get-togethers. And, when asked to pose for photos by FHM, Coors reportedly said he would be "happy" to do "whatever" was asked of him. We're pretty sure that some of the publicists working for FHM are still suffering from shock at being treated in such a manner.

Give an inch...

Well, NBC went and did it, didn't they? Perhaps they thought that addressing Don Wildmon's concerns might just make him go away. As if. Like a bully who's found a kid willing to give up his lunch money, the American Family Association is once again smacking the Peacock. The latest email blast is headlined, "NBC Does it Again! Vulgar, Tasteless, Indecent Scene Part of Network Program." But this time it isn't the gays on "Will & Grace" they're upset with, it's the strippers on "Las Vegas." Apparently, an "extremely graphic" scene was set inside a strip club, exposing millions of American children to human flesh. So what does the AFA do? It forwards the offensive scene via e-mail. "Rather than trying to describe it to you," writes Don, "I would rather you watch it yourself." And right there in the e-mail is a link to the video with the following disclaimer. "WARNING: This scene taken from the NBC program `Las Vegas' is highly offensive. Click here to watch the scene." Readers are then asked for a small donation.

As one colleague joked, "Has AFA gone from born again to porn again?" But hey, it saved us from having to watch an entire episode of `Las Vegas.' And we're glad to see that the AFA is still using e-mail and threats of boycott to make its points. Unlike some other easily offended people who shall remain nameless.

Contributing: Brad Johnson File your complaints at kwheaton@crain.com

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