News Corp. Cancels O.J. Simpson Book and TV Special
Monday , November 20, 2006
NEW YORK — News Corp., the parent company of book publisher HarperCollins and the FOX network, has canceled publication of the O.J. Simpson book and television special "If I Did It."
"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
In the book, the one-time football superstar tells how he would have killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman if, in fact, he had done it.
A dozen FOX affiliates had already said they would not air the two-part sweeps month special, planned for next week before the book's publication.
One station manager who had said he wasn't airing the special said he was concerned that whether or not Simpson was guilty, he'd still be profiting from murders.
"I have my own moral compass and this was easy," said Bill Lamb, general manager of WDRB in Louisville.
Relatives of the victims have lashed out at the now scuttled publication and broadcast plans.
"He destroyed my son and took from my family Ron's future and life. And for that I'll hate him always and find him despicable," Fred Goldman told ABC last week.
The industry trade publication Broadcasting & Cable editorialized against the show Monday, saying "FOX should cancel this evil sweeps stunt."
One of the nation's largest superstore chains, Borders Group Inc., said last week it would donate any profits on the book to charity.
Also last week, Judith Regan, would-be publisher of Simpson's book, said she did not pay Simpson for the rights to publish his book.
"What I do know is I didn't pay him," Regan said in an eight-page statement titled "Why I Did It." "I contracted through a third party who owns the rights, and I was told the money would go to his children. That much I could live with."
Regan also said in the statement that she wanted Simpson's "confession" because she herself was once a victim of abuse.
"I made the decision to publish this book, and to sit face to face with the killer, because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth, to confess their sins, to do penance and to amend their lives."
Although Regan has acknowledged that Simpson does not directly say that he killed his ex-wife and her friend, she said she considers the book to be his confession.
Regan said Simpson approached her with the idea for the book, which reportedly was sold for $3.5 million.
"If I Did It," which was to be published by ReganBooks — an imprint to HarperCollins, was scheduled for release Nov. 30. FOX had planned to air a two-part TV interview of Simpson on Nov. 27 and 29.
In the television world, the closest precedent for such an about-face came when CBS yanked a miniseries about Ronald Reagan from its schedule in 2003 when complaints were raised about its accuracy. The Reagan series was seen on its sister premium-cable channel, Showtime, instead.
For the publishing industry, the cancellation of "If I Did It" was an astonishing end to a story like no other.
Numerous books have been withdrawn over the years because of possible plagiarism, most recently Kaavya Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," but a book's removal simply for objectionable content is virtually unheard of.
Pre-order sales had been strong, but not sensational. "If I Did It" cracked the top 20 of Amazon.com last weekend, but by Monday afternoon, at the time its cancellation had been announced, the book had fallen to No. 51.
Simpson was acquitted of the murders in 1995, but was later found criminally liable for the deaths in civil court in 1997.
Although he was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Goldman family, Simpson has avoided making full restitution because California law prevents his NFL pension from being seized to satisfy the judgment. His lavish residence in Florida is similarly protected under state law.