Biographer Kelley targets Winfrey

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NEW YORK -- Kitty Kelley, the best-selling biographer known for dishing dirt on her subjects, is taking on one of America's most loved celebrities -- Oprah Winfrey.

Crown Publishers, an imprint of Random House, said Wednesday it will publish the upcoming biography of Winfrey by Kelley, who has already tackled the Bush family, the British royals, Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra and has been credited with inventing the unauthorized, unflattering biography.

"Oprah Winfrey has fascinated me for many years," Kelley said in a statement. "As a woman, she has wielded an unprecedented amount of influence over the American culture and psyche. There has been no other person in the 20th century whose convictions and values have impacted the American public in such a significant way."

Kelley made her name with the 1978 publication of "Jackie Oh!", which detailed womanizing by President John F. Kennedy and the former first lady's battle with depression.

In her biography of Nancy Reagan, she famously wrote that the first lady had long private "lunches" with Sinatra in her private quarters, using the quotation marks around the word lunches to emphasize her innuendo. In her book on Sinatra, she portrayed the beloved actor and singer as a violent misogynist who fraternized with mobsters.

In 2004's "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," she wrote that President George W. Bush had snorted cocaine at Camp David while his father was president.

That assertion was credited to Sharon Bush -- the former wife of the president's brother Neil -- who subsequently denied sharing those juicy details with Kelley.

Critics have accused her of stretching the truth and engaging in tabloid journalism. Online magazine Slate called her the "colonoscopist to the stars."

Still, many critics see value in her work even as many question her methods and sourcing.

"Although Kitty Kelley has the reputation, as does The National Enquirer, of trash-mongering -- and profiting handsomely from it -- both can also be seen as moralists," the Washington Post wrote in its review of "The Family."

"They 'out' our leaders and celebrities with the zeal of evangelists because they want them to be better. And they want us to see these people as they really are, so that in our outrage we will demand reform or repentance."

Crown said Kelley's book will include interviews with hundreds of sources, many of whom have never before spoken on the record about Oprah. It noted there has never been a serious biography written about Winfrey.
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