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Critics Attack OJ

WWW- [Newsweek] To those who worried our violent, sex-obsessed, celebrity-crazed culture had at last reached the very farthest depths of depravity, O. J. Simpson and Judith Regan come bearing news: we had so much farther to fall. The accused but unconvicted killer and the attention-hungry pulp publisher have teamed up to create a product so lacking in taste and decency that people are already lining up to buy it.Story continues below ? advertisement

Regan’s imprint at HarperCollins, which has put out books about convicted wife-killer Scott Peterson and a memoir by porn star Jenna Jameson, is set to publish a “fictional” account by O.J. that details how he would have killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman if he did kill them, which he still insists he did not. The book, titled “If I Did It,” will go along with a two-part “Fox television event” in which Regan-a former National Enquirer reporter-will interview O.J., who’ll apparently spell out in gory detail precisely how he didn’t commit the crime.

Regan reportedly paid between $2 million and $3.5 million for the deal. She kept the project secret even from her colleagues at HarperCollins-telling them only that a big title was coming out at the end of November. When word about the deal got out last week, Regan was attacked as a money-grubbing bottom feeder on the cable news shows. (Outraged by the depravity of it all, they reveled in the story at great length. We might be accused of doing the same.)

Wounded by the criticism, Regan rose to defend herself. She protested that she had been misunderstood. The book and TV deal had nothing to do with money, she wrote in a windy statement issued Thursday evening. She did it to help victims of violence. As a young woman, she wrote, she was abused by a boyfriend and believes Simpson’s confession to the murders-even hypothetically-will heal the wounds of victims everywhere. (The former boyfriend denied the abuse allegations.) “I made the decision to publish this book, and to sit face to face with the killer,” Regan said, “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. Amen.”

Even in the crowded annals of calculated confessionals, Regan’s is something special. As she sat with O.J. for the television interview, “the men who lied and cheated and beat me-they were all there in the room,” she wrote. “And the people who denied it, they were there too. And though it might sound a little strange, Nicole and Ron were in my heart. And for them I wanted him to confess his sins, to do penance and to amend his life. Amen.” And if everyone should happen to make money in the process, then amen to that, too.Story continues below ? advertisement

Just how the deal came together is still a bit of a mystery. According to Simpson’s lawyer Yale Galanter, an unidentified go-between thought up the idea and brought Regan and Simpson together.

Regan has clarified why she wanted in, but why would O.J. agree to stomp on the grave of his dead former wife? Money, for starters. The Juice hasn’t had an easy time finding work, and he still owes most of the $33.5 million judgment that the Goldman and Brown families-Ron and Nicole’s relatives-won in a wrongful-death case against him in civil court. Simpson, who now lives in Florida, where laws protect his house from creditors, has been forced to scrape by on his $300,000-a-year NFL pension, which is also beyond the court’s reach. He has no fear his “confession” might get him into trouble again with the law. He can’t be tried a second time for the crimes. But a Simpson family friend, who like many close to O.J. did not want to be named for fear of alienating him-says that money wasn’t his only motivation. “He’s long past caring at this point,” the friend says. “I think he’s saying, ‘You think I did it anyway, so let me make some money off of what you think.’ This is just one big f— you from him.”

It took only hours for all the old cast members from the O.J. drama-lightly slumbering these long years but never far from the phone-to assemble and resume their battle stations for the latest clash. The lawyers, the experts, the commentators, all found their way back to the cameras. As did Fred Goldman, the long-suffering Simpson agonist. “Even for him, it’s about as low as you could possibly go,” he told NEWSWEEK. “This is a guy who is a complete narcissist and a sociopath.” Goldman vowed to go after any money Simpson makes from the project. Anticipating just that, the deal was reportedly arranged so that the payments wouldn’t be paid to Simpson himself. In her statement, Regan insisted that she didn’t want Simpson to see any of the profits. She said she gave the cash to a third party, “and I was told the money would go to his children. That much I could live with.”

But the Goldmans and Browns may yet lay claim to the profits. “If the publisher paid a third party a check that really belonged to O. J. Simpson, it doesn’t shield it from the legal process,” says Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer who represented the Goldmans in the civil suit.

Even some of the people closest to Simpson were surprised when they learned about the deal. Galanter, Simpson’s lawyer, bluntly admits he’s “p—ed” O.J. kept him in the dark about it. He calls the profits “blood money,” and says, “I definitely would not have approved this.” Galanter says the whole thing is something of a bait-and-switch. Only one of the seven chapters deals with the murder, he says, and nowhere does O.J. admit to killing anyone. Even so, Galanter says, “I wouldn’t have done it for a gazillion dollars.” Simpson’s children evidently don’t share his misgivings. Galanter says O.J.’s four grown children-two from a previous marriage, and two he had with Nicole-were among the few people who knew about the deal before last week, and he says they approved. (Simpson’s children are not talking publicly about the book.)

The rest of the country seemed unable to denounce it fast enough, even as prepublication sales of the book raced toward the top of’s rankings. Bookstores around the country said they would stock the book but not display it, or sell it by special order only. Some Fox affiliates said they wouldn’t air the interview, and two of the Fox News Channel’s heaviest hitters condemned it. Bill O’Reilly slammed his Fox bosses, said he wouldn’t watch the show or look at the book and threatened to boycott any product that was advertised during the interview. And, as if to remind us that the burden of irony rests lighter on some than on others, Geraldo Rivera himself got on TV and railed against the evils of exploiting the victims.

Simpson’s friends and family say that at this point he’s got nothing to lose. He can’t sink any lower in the public eye. “There is nothing he can do to make the Goldmans or Browns happy,” says a close family member. “He would have to drop dead and that wouldn’t be enough … They would find something wrong if he was saving dying kids in Africa.”

O.J. saving dying kids. Now that would make for some great TV. Short of that, he could follow the lead of Borders, the national book chain, which announced it will donate profits from the book to victims of domestic violence. (Regan-who says, “What I wanted was closure, not money”-could hand over her chunk of the loot, too.) Don’t hold your breath. But it would be an interesting experiment to see what would happen. If he did it.


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