McGreevey's Back, and Oprah's Got Him

Sept. 12, 2006 — -- James McGreevey's back and Oprah's got him.

No need to explain who Oprah is, but some may have forgotten McGreevey, whose obituary headline will doubtless label him "the first openly gay governor in American history."

For now, McGreevey is alive and well and embarking on a tour to promote his political memoir, "The Confession."

Until now, he has maintained a staunch public silence since the day two years ago when he announced both that he was gay and that he would step down as governor.

After taping his "Oprah" appearance, which will air Sept. 19, the day McGreevey's book comes out, the 49-year-old former chief executive of New Jersey will move on to "Today," the "Late Show With David Letterman," "The View" and "Hannity and Colmes."

But Oprah gets first dibs, and her show is likely to get the most media play, especially since McGreevey's 42-year-old partner, Australian financier Mark O'Donnell, has also agreed to be interviewed. The couple live in New Jersey. McGreevey has been married twice, and has two daughters.

How did Oprah land McGreevey? According to The Associated Press, McGreevey's friends say he admires her for what she's done to support education and fight poverty.

But is McGreevey really now in his post-political life? Or is his book just a way to launch a bid to re-enter the world of politics? Oprah is sure to ask him.

So far, there are no hints from McGreevey's friends that he still harbors any political ambitions. But book tours are one way of measuring popularity, and McGreevey has scheduled several book-signing appearances in New Jersey this month.

He should soon get a feel for whether his home state has forgiven him for putting a reputed lover on the state payroll as a homeland security adviser.

His publisher, Harper Collins, in an unusual move, released some excerpts last May in which McGreevey writes of anonymous sexual encounters at highway rest stops, and the pressures he felt after having been raised in a socially conservative, working-class Roman Catholic family. His friends say he wrote the book in large part to help others who are trying to deal with their sexuality, according to the AP.

Harper Collins says "in this extraordinarily candid memoir, McGreevey shares his ... life of ambition, moral compromise and redemption. ... Only when a former lover threatened to expose him did he finally confront his divided soul and find the authentic self that had always eluded him."

Even allowing for the overheated blurb from his publisher, McGreevey clearly has plenty to tell Oprah and others about sex and politics. For political junkies not much interested in McGreevey's struggles with his sexuality, the publisher also promises revelations about hardball politics as practiced in New Jersey.

Trouble is, New Jersey may not care very much.

In a statewide poll conducted by Monmouth University Polling Institute, 79 percent of his former constituents said they have no interest -- absolutely no interest -- in reading his memoir. Only 5 percent said they have a lot of interest. Another 14 percent said they would take "a wait-and-see attitude."

Maybe McGreevey can gin up more interest on Oprah.

McGreevey apparently has already impressed another talk-show host, Joan Rivers. He is reportedly a front-runner to be a regular on an upcoming Rivers show on the Bravo cable channel. The title of the show? "Can We Dish?"