Reached last Wednesday, Klein remembered the affair well. “I said that within minutes after the words hit the page that it was a stupid thing to write,” he said, adding that he believed New York had run an item to that effect. He even appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” with Lee in a segment Klein described as “pretty confrontational.” The transcript of that appearance shows Winfrey repeatedly asking both the audience and guests to let others finish and to stay respectful. Lee and Klein, formerly neighbors in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, sparred several times.
Notwithstanding the retraction, Klein argues that the controversy actually did Lee some good: “I made him a lot of money….It was kind of his breakout film and my mistake was an easy mark for people who wanted to celebrate him.”
Overall, he was philosophical. “When you write a weekly column, you are guaranteed to say stupid things once in awhile. I’ve had others since. Who knows, maybe what I’m closing today is going to be seen as stupid,” Klein said.
Denby had no comment. — I.C.