O.J. Simpson’s Book Publisher on the Interview When He ‘Confessed’ to Murder


In 1995, O.J. Simpson pleaded not guilty to murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. He was acquitted by a jury. But a little more than a decade later, he more or less confessed to the crimes.

Mr. Simpson did so in a bizarre 2007 book, titled “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer,” that was purchased for publication by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, run by the magnate Judith Regan.

The parent company for ReganBooks and HarperCollins was News Corp, whose chairman, Rupert Murdoch, had been one of Ms. Regan’s biggest supporters.

Amid a sea of more genteel publishers, she published controversial (and often best-selling) memoirs by authors including the shock jock Howard Stern, the porn star Jenna Jameson, and the steroid-taking baseball player Jose Canseco. (Mr. Canseco’s memoir was called “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big.”)

During negotiations for “If I Did It,” Mr. Simpson agreed to conduct one television interview with a journalist in order to promote the book. He would describe, in hypothetical terms, what might have transpired on the night of June 12, 1994, when Ms. Brown Simpson and Mr. Goldman were found outside her home in West Los Angeles, stabbed to death.

Mr. Simpson finished “If I Did It” with the help of a ghostwriter, but after a public outcry, the book was shelved, and the woman who had agreed to publish it lost her job.

“Basically, I got the shiv,” Ms. Regan said in a phone interview this week.

Eventually Mr. Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, and Mr. Goldman’s sister, Kim Goldman, secured the rights to publish the book in 2007. They added an introduction, along with a prologue by the ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, and an afterward by Dominick Dunne, whose trial reporting for Vanity Fair made plain his belief that Mr. Simpson was guilty of the murders.

Ms. Regan said she thought that she was being pranked when she first received a cold call from a lawyer claiming to be working for O.J. Simpson, sometime around 2005.

When she realized the call was real, she worked out a deal. The terms, Ms. Regan said, included that the money for the book be placed into trusts for Sydney and Justin Simpson, Mr. Simpson’s children with Ms. Brown Simpson.

Ms. Regan was adamant that Mr. Simpson agree to an on-camera interview because, as she put it, “without it, he could always say ‘the ghostwriter twisted my words,’ ‘this isn’t really what I said,’ ‘blah blah blah.’”

Ms. Regan then brought in Mr. Simpson’s ghostwriter, Mr. Fenjves. He had lived a few doors down from Ms. Brown Simpson in Los Angeles and had testified against Mr. Simpson at trial, saying that he heard a dog barking at the time of the murders.

Over the course of several months in 2006, Mr. Fenjves interviewed Mr. Simpson many times by himself. (“I never even met him then,” Ms. Regan said of Mr. Simpson.)

By late 2006, the book was complete. Barbara Walters of ABC secured an exclusive interview with Mr. Simpson in Miami, where he was living. A date to film was set for early November. But the outcry preceding the book’s release threw things into disarray.

Unsurprisingly, many people felt that Mr. Simpson should not profit from taking center stage in a double homicide, even though he had been acquitted. Ms. Walters and ABC backed out of the project.

Initially, Ms. Regan’s superiors at News Corp held strong in their support. Fox, its main television arm, secured the rights to the interview. Ms. Regan stepped in to interrogate Mr. Simpson herself.

Soon, she was filming in a warehouse in South Florida.

For five hours, she and Mr. Simpson discussed the circumstances that led to the murders and what happened in their aftermath. “If you listen, he hangs himself on every word,” Ms. Regan told the Times. “His basic view was that she had it coming. He saw himself as a victim.”

Dressed in a navy suit and a baby blue polo shirt, Mr. Simpson presented himself as a happy-go-lucky guy driven to the brink by his fickle and temperamental spouse.

“Keep this in mind — this is hypothetical,” he said.

Then he discussed the circumstances that led to the murders.

He said that on June 12, 1994, he had gone to their daughter Sydney’s dance performance. Ms. Brown Simpson was also there, wearing a short skirt he did not approve of.

At the recital, Mr. Simpson said, he ran into an old friend who informed him that Ms. Brown Simpson had been having drug- and sex-fueled parties at her house. Mr. Simpson became enraged, he said, mostly on behalf of his children.

Later that evening, Mr. Simpson said, he went over to Ms. Brown Simpson’s house because he wanted to talk it out with her. He felt that a “stop” had to be put to her bad behavior.

Mr. Simpson also told Ms. Regan that there had been a knife in the car he drove to Ms. Brown Simpson’s condominium on Bundy Drive in Brentwood. It was hidden under his car seat, he said.

He said that things had escalated between him and the victims until he was standing in a pool of blood. Yet, he professed not to remember much of what transpired. And Mr. Simpson presented himself as having not been alone.

Instead, he said that he had arrived at Ms. Brown Simpson’s condominium with a friend named Charlie, and that at one point “Charlie” held the knife, but that it ultimately wound up in his hand.

This was a surprise. There had never been any evidence to suggest that Mr. Simpson had an accomplice. No one else’s blood was found at the scene besides Mr. Simpson’s and the victims’.

Mr. Fenjves later said that he believed “Charlie” was a chimera, a means for Mr. Simpson to give himself an added level of remove from the murders he mostly acknowledged having committed.

Speaking by phone, Ms. Regan said she still did not know what to make of the character in the book.

But other details that Mr. Simpson mentioned line up with the narrative laid out by prosecutors in the murder trial.

Mr. Simpson said that after leaving the crime scene, he returned home. He had to catch a red-eye flight to Chicago because he was scheduled to play in a celebrity golf tournament the next day.

In the rush to leave the house and make his flight, he left behind a trail of evidence that investigators found, including a bloody glove that had been worn during the murders.

Yet, Mr. Simpson spoke during the interview with Ms. Regan as if the murders could have been prevented, had Ms. Brown Simpson only been a more stable person, a better spouse, a more responsible mother.

“He had zero remorse,” Ms. Regan said. “The only remorse he had was that she had ruined his life. Because he had to kill her.”

Ms. Regan said that she had walked out of the interview with Mr. Simpson feeling as if someone had finally gotten the truth out of him. But soon after, when ads for the interview began to run, a number of Fox affiliates revolted. They said they would not air it.

Vocal condemnations came from the families of the victims as well.

Ultimately, Fox decided not to air it and News Corp scrapped plans to publish the book.

Ms. Regan said publicly that she thought her company was making a mistake. Less than a month later, she was fired, reportedly for telling a colleague that a Jewish cabal at News Corp was out to get her.

Ms. Regan denied saying any such thing. She sued the company for defamation and it settled with her for an undisclosed sum. The company also released a statement saying she had never made antisemitic statements and was not an antisemite. (Ms. Regan now runs Regan Arts, a publishing company with distribution through Simon & Schuster.)

By then, Mr. Simpson owed the Goldman family millions of dollars from a 1997 civil suit that found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. After Mr. Simpson failed to make his payments, Ron Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, obtained control of the book from a bankruptcy court in Miami.

In 2007, it was released through Beaufort Books, an independent publishing house based in New York. This time, the money went to the Goldman family. (The earnings from the book were almost the only money that the family ever earned from Mr. Simpson, People magazine reported this week.)

When representatives for Fox called Ms. Regan more than a decade later to say that they were going to air the interview, she was surprised. She said this week that she had been led to believe the tapes of the interview had been destroyed.

Clearly, they had not.

In addition, the producers asked Ms. Regan if she would be willing to appear on a panel moderated by the journalist Soledad O’Brien and featuring (among others) Christopher Darden, a member of the prosecution team.

Despite how Ms. Regan feels about News Corp’s leadership, she was happy to do so.

“Like it or not, this was his confession,” she said. “It is a portrait of a sociopath.”

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