News Corp. canceled its book and TV specials on O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confession to the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, but that didn’t make the sordid subject go away.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch’s Monday about-face on the project was followed by media stories in which relatives of Mr. Simpson’s ex-wife accused the company of offering them “hush money” and a radio interview in which Mr. Simpson said he’d received an advance on the project and had already spent the money.
Public outrage and a revolt by Fox affiliates and Fox News stars Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera led News Corp. to pull the plug on the book and TV shows with a rare concession from Mr. Murdoch that “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project.”
It was not difficult to find News Corp. executives who were relieved by the decision-it was rejected by Fox Broadcasting once and then accepted three months later-but it was impossible to find any who would speak on the record and for attribution.
A News Corp. spokesperson said the money offered the Browns and Goldmans was any profit from the book and special. But some internal sources said it was possible that Fox had not sold any commercial time for the two-hour special. A Fox Broadcasting spokesperson declined to comment.
The special was a two-parter that initially was set to air on News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting tonight and Wednesday as a last-second sweeps ratings boost. The show was a spinoff off a book from News Corp.-owned ReganBooks in which Mr. Simpson talked about how he would have murdered ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. He was acquitted of the gruesome crimes in 1995 and found liable for them in a later civil case.
Some of the criticism leveled at News Corp. centered on why the company would commit to a project that enriched a man found responsible for killing two people. Mr. Simpson, in an interview with a Florida radio station, confirmed that the company had overcome any qualms about paying him before the projects were scrapped.
“Would everybody stop being so naive? Of course I got paid,” Mr. Simpson said Wednesday on WTPS-AM. “I spend the money on my bills. “It’s gone.”
Published reports had put his advance as high as $3.5 million. Mr. Simpson said only that it was a “windfall,” according to an account of the interview by the Associated Press.
In the civil trial brought over the killings, Mr. Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the Brown and Goldman families, who still have not received a cent.