Public relations professionals have a hard enough time getting people to accept messages, even the ones that are incontrovertibly true. For many people, the idea that we are paid to pass along information immediately makes the truth value of the message suspect. Now, we have another threat to our effectiveness — a declining standard of truth.

It’s now coming to light that “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey played fast and loose with the truth of his account of addiction and redemption. (Think “VH1 Behind the Music,” without any actual, you know, music.)

While Smoking Gun ferreted out the truth, questions about the book go back to 2003, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

(From Editor and Publisher): “Twin Cities public relations executive Jon Austin said he was hardly surprised when he read about the Smoking Gun findings this week in USA Today. ‘I remembered that there were problems about the veracity of his story when the book came out,’ said Austin, a former spokesman for Northwest Airlines.’

“In July 2003, shortly after the book was published, Austin told the Star Tribune that ‘no way, no how, nowhere’ would Frey have been allowed to board a commercial jet covered in blood and vomit, with a hole in his cheek and four front teeth missing, as the author claimed in the first paragraph of ‘Pieces.’

What is most troubling is Frey’s blatant disregard for criticism over his tomfoolery.

At the time, Frey brushed aside questions about his book’s accuracy. ‘I wrote what was true to me,’ he told the Star Tribune. ‘If people want to pick apart the facts, they can.’

What. Was. True. To. Me.

Is there no objective standard of truth anymore?

Well find out in the coming days. The book is part of Oprah’s club, and website has not yet acknowledged any of the controversy. And it damned well better, because far too many people will take a cue from Oprah that “feelings” are more important than “facts.” In that nightmarish future, no amount of truth will save a PR practitioner as long as people “feel” their employer is evil or unfair.

Maybe she can flash “Writer’s Embellishment” underneath Frey like Letterman used to do.

Update: Random House is offering refunds for people who bought “A Million Little Pieces” directly from them. Other retailers may follow suit.