Q: Do you think that it was difficult for him to finally come clean to you?
Oprah: Yes, I think the entire interview was difficult. And may I just say that we had agreed before this moment, before the interview, we had agreed that the terms of the interview and what was included in the interview—specifically what was included in the interview—would be left for people to make their own judgments about, and that I would not be discussing, and that he would not be discussing or confirming. We agreed to that, and by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it. So I'm like, "How did you all do that?" We all agreed we weren't going to say anything. So I'm sitting here now because it's already been confirmed. So here we are.
Q: Did he come clean in the manner you expected?
Oprah: I would say he did not come clean in the manner that I expected. It was surprising to me. I would say that, for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers. I had prepared. ... I'd watched all of Scott Pelley's reports, 60 Minutes reports. I had seen the Tyler Hamilton interview. I'd read Seven Deadly Sins. I'd read L.A. Confidential, David Walsh's books. I had prepared and prepared like it was a college exam, and walked into the room with 112 questions. And in a two-and-a-half-hour interview, I asked most of those questions, or at least as many of those questions as I could. But I feel he answered the questions in a way that he was ready. I didn't get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered and certainly answered. I can only say I was satisfied by the answers.
Q: Do you think he was contrite?
Oprah: I choose not to characterize. I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment. I would say that he met the moment. And at the end of it, literally two and a half hours, we both were pretty exhausted, and I would say I was satisfied.
Q: Did you have a strategy going in for how you would talk to him?
Oprah: We had a strategy and pretty much followed that strategy, certainly, in the first hour and 20 minutes of the interview. And about an hour and 20 minutes in, we took a break, and Lance actually said, "Will there be a point when you lighten up? What about the questions about my mom and how was my run today?" So yeah, I was prepared with a strategy, but because he was so forthcoming—I think I went in prepared to have to dig and pull and reference, because I was literally in my head: "On page 76 of the [United States Anti-Doping Agency] reasoned decision...if he says this, I'll go to that; if he says this answer, I'll go to Seven Deadly Sins, page 114." I didn't have to do that because he was pretty forthcoming.
Q: Why do you think he wanted to do this now?
Oprah: I'm not sure I have the answer to that question—why he wanted to do it now. I specifically asked that question. I think he was just ready. I think the velocity of everything that has come at him in the past several months, and particularly in the past several weeks, he was just ready.
Q: How did you get this interview?
Oprah: I had sent him an email a couple of months ago just hoping that he would talk to me. He emailed back and said he wasn't ready to talk, but he would be in Hawaii over the holidays, and he knew that I had a place in Hawaii. "Okay, right, that's going to happen," I thought. "Sure, we're going to get together for lunch." During the holidays, I emailed and said, "What about that lunch?" As it turns out, he said "I can't do" it on the days I was available because he had his kids. I had a bunch of my kids—girls from my school in Africa—with me. I stayed over an extra two days in order to accommodate his schedule, and he came to visit me in Maui. He lives on another island so he flew over. I went through my stealth operation...
Gayle: And Oprah, you should say you cleared out the house.
Oprah: Cleared out the house. I had guests in the house. Everybody has to leave. Go to the beach, go to the beach, go to the beach now and stay there for at least four hours! So I had nobody in the house, including people who are usually there for help—even the people who do the lawn. I removed all those people. I had a person go to the airport that normally doesn't pick me up at the airport so that he wouldn't be recognized as being connected to me. I did all of that. Lance comes and says, "Where is everybody?" I said, "I sent everybody away." He goes, "But you didn't clear the road. There was a biker on the road."
Q: How is he different than you expected, if at all?
Oprah: Well, how was he different? I'll let you be the judge of that.
Q: What's your takeaway from this, and where do you put this in a career of extraordinary interviews?
Oprah: I think it's certainly the biggest interview I've ever done in terms of its exposure. I think back in 1993, of course, I did Michael Jackson live around the world. This is going to be live-streamed around the world, as well as on OWN. If you can't find OWN on your station, you should go to Oprah.com, and we have a channel finder there for people who are still trying to find it. But because it's going to be around the world—and we believe it should be around the world because so many people who don't have access to the OWN channel wanted to hear what he had to say—and I think the number of people who have exposure to it makes it the biggest interview I've ever done.
Q: It's being described as an emotional interview. What does that mean?
Oprah: I would say there were a couple of times where he was emotional, but "emotional" doesn't begin to describe the intensity or the difficulty that I think he experienced in talking about some of these things. ... I think that you will come away with the understanding that he brought it. He really did.
Q: Who was in the room, and what was their reaction to the interview?
Oprah: He had a team of people. We did not allow the lawyers in the room. I had said to the lawyers that if you have something to say that you want to disagree with or have an issue with, you have to make that issue after I'm done and not come in and interrupt. And when we finished, nobody had any issues.
Q: When does it air, and why two nights?
Oprah: I'm not going to cut down the two and a half hours. As a matter of fact, we have decided, literally on the plane last night on the way back—because I didn't want to satellite the tapes; I didn't trust putting it up on the bird, so I hand-carried them in my bag along with my dog food and dog leashes back to Harpo—we decided that we are actually going to go for two nights because it's impossible to try to cut 80 minutes out. As you all know, a 90-minute interview on TV is really only 65 minutes. So we felt to leave over half of this on the cutting room floor after millions of people have been waiting for years for many of these answers would not be the right thing to do.
This special episode of Oprah's Next Chapter will air Thursday, January 17, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET/PT and Friday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on Oprah.com.