News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

News Corp announced plans to publish a book by the notorious former football star O. J. Simpson called If I Did It, an allegedly speculative account of how Simpson would have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Public reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that News Corp canceled both its planned television special and the book’s release. Goldman’s family received legal title to the book and published it in 2007 as Simpson’s actual confession.

Summary of Event

On November 20, 2006, News Corporation (News Corp) announced that it would cancel publication of O. J. Simpson’s book If I Did It. The book, planned for publication by ReganBooks, a News Corp subsidiary, allegedly was a hypothetical confession by Simpson of how he would have murdered his former wife and her friend. Also planned was a two-part television interview O. J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened on Fox Television, Fox Television also a News Corp subsidiary. The interview special, earmarked to promote the book, was scheduled to be broadcast in the final week of the television ratings sweeps. The announcement was followed by overwhelming public condemnation of ReganBooks and Fox. [kw]Simpson’s Book, News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. (Nov. 20, 2006) Regan, Judith Fenjves, Pablo F. Simpson, O. J. News Corp If I Did It (Simpson) Regan, Judith Fenjves, Pablo F. Simpson, O. J. News Corp If I Did It (Simpson) [g]United States;Nov. 20, 2006: News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book[03720] [c]Publishing and journalism;Nov. 20, 2006: News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book[03720] [c]Radio and television;Nov. 20, 2006: News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book[03720] [c]Public morals;Nov. 20, 2006: News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book[03720] [c]Business;Nov. 20, 2006: News Corp Abandons Plan to Publish O. J. Simpson’s Book[03720] Brown, Denise Goldman, Fred

Two weeks earlier, on October 30, the gossip tabloid National Enquirer National Enquirer first alleged that Simpson was working secretly on a manuscript in which he would confess to the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. That manuscript, If I Did It, was acquired by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins. Simpson was to receive $3.5 million for the book contract. Pablo F. Fenjves, If I Did It’s ghostwriter, was recruited by ReganBooks and led to believe the book was to be the confession of a murderer. Fenjves himself believes that Simpson murdered Brown Simpson and Goldman.

The National Enquirer also suggested that Simpson intended to quickly spend the contract money to avoid paying on the civil judgment against him. Indeed, the $630,000 he was paid in advance, which should have gone to the Goldmans (beneficiaries of the civil judgment), was funneled through a shell corporation, Lorraine Brooke Associates, named for two of his children. He used the money to pay bills, including his mortgage and Internal Revenue Service debts.

On the evening of the announcement by News Corp, Ronald Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, appeared on King, Larry (talk show host) Larry King Live on CNN and strongly urged people to not buy the book. Ronald’s family launched a Web site (dontpayoj.com) the next morning, gathering signatures for a petition to stop the book’s publication. The family argued that a killer (Simpson was acquitted of the murders in criminal court but found liable in civil court) should not profit from his or her crime.

On November 15, ReganBooks publisher Judith Regan had called Simpson a killer and claimed the book indeed was his confession. She said she contracted the book to bring further awareness to violence against women, which included herself. She also said that her motive for publishing the book was vengeance. By November 20, more than one dozen stations affiliated with Fox refused to air the special. Also, many bookstores refused to sell the book; those that did donated sales profits to charities.

The public’s passionate response to the book and television interview was understandable, given that many considered Simpson’s acquittal nothing less than a gross miscarriage of justice. The planned interview was likened to a snuff film, and even Simpson agreed that book earnings would be blood money. Finally, the public, journalists, and other media professionals questioned the ethics of News Corp, Fox, and ReganBooks.

On November 21, Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, announced that News Corp attempted to buy off the Brown and Goldman families by offering millions of dollars for their silence but that News Corp would still publish the book and air the interview. When the Brown family refused News Corp’s offer, the company’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, canceled the book and interview and asked booksellers to return all unsold copies. However, some copies of the book circulated after its first printing, and Vanity Fair magazine got hold of one. It published a detailed book review in its January 22, 2007, issue, and by June 13, the book was available on the Web.

If I Did It reached merchants once again in September, 2007, although in a somewhat different form. Earlier that summer, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded rights to the original manuscript to the Goldman family. The retitled If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer was published as a book of nonfiction—a true O. J. Simpson confession—by Beaufort Books and includes commentary by the ghostwriter, Fenjves, and victim-rights advocate Dominick Dunne. The Goldman family received 90 percent of the profits from sales of the book. Denise Brown responded to the 2007 publication with an online petition, requesting the publisher cancel further printings. By February 14, 2008, the petition’s “close” date, more than 6,600 people had signed in support of Brown’s campaign.

Impact

The scandal surrounding the planned publication of If I Did It and its accompanying television special raised anew many ethical dilemmas. First, critics asked whether a person found liable for human pain, suffering, and death should profit from those acts.

Second, critics asked if a media giant, such as News Corp, should pay a person (Simpson), believed by many to be a murderer, to “confess” on television while hiding behind a criminal court’s finding of his not being guilty, and pay the “interviewer” (Regan) to take part in such a charade. Third, critics questioned whether or not any subject is taboo in a world in which networks are attempting to boost sagging ratings. Fourth, is it ethical for journalists to exploit a miscarriage of justice for personal gain?

Finally, many believe that Simpson decided to write the book not only for the money but also to get back in the limelight: He had enjoyed his celebrity for thirty years before the murders, and he clearly basked in this status. However, if these were Simpson’s intentions, they failed. He did not receive money for the book, short of the advance, and did not regain his positive celebrity status. If anything, he remains a pariah. Regan, Judith Fenjves, Pablo F. Simpson, O. J. News Corp If I Did It (Simpson)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bugliosi, Vincent T. Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. Study of the murder case by a well-known felony prosecutor. Includes an explanation of how the abundant and quality evidence pointed solely to Simpson as the murderer. Explains in detail how the murder trial went wrong.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clark, Marcia, and Teresa Carpenter. Without a Doubt. New York: Viking Press, 1997. Critical appraisal of all major actors and actions in the Simpson trial by Marcia Clark, the deputy district attorney who led the prosecution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr., with Tim Rutten. Journey to Justice. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996. Cochran led the legal team in the successful criminal defense of Simpson. A key to Cochran’s perspective on the trial may be found in the title of chapter 14, “From Seeds of Doubt, Justice Flowers.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dunne, Dominick. Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001. The author, a much-read journalist and major advocate of justice for murder victims, devotes ten chapters to his observations and insight regarding the murder trial of Simpson. Dunne sat through the entire trial and had regular interaction with the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman after the murders.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">The Goldman Family, Pablo F. Fenjves, and Dominick Dunne. If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. New York: Beaufort Books, 2007. Contains an exact replication of the original manuscript of I Did It, with commentary by the Goldman family, a prologue by ghostwriter Fenjves, and an afterword by Dunne.

Film Star Mary Astor’s Diary Becomes a Public Sensation

Actor Joan Crawford’s Daughter Publishes Damning Memoir, Mommie Dearest

Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial

Time Magazine Cover Uses Altered O. J. Simpson Photo

Categories: History Content