Critics Tackle O.J. 'True Crime' Book

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06: O.J. Simpson arrives to the funeral services for lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. at the West Angeles Cathedral on April 6, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) GETTY

The widely-condemned O.J. Simpson book and Fox TV special, in which the former football star speculates how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend, has been met with particularly loud criticism from commentators for the Fox News Channel, which is owned by Ruper Murdoch's News Corporation — which also owns the Fox television network and HarperCollins, the publisher of the new book.

Mark Fuhrman, a former LAPD detective who testified during the Simpson trial and who is now a commentator for Fox News, lashed out at the book and TV show. "This is entertainment? Is this the lowest form of reality TV? What kind of people would do this? I have no idea, but I have no respect for anybody who would engage this man in anything except maybe a knife fight."

Geraldo Rivera, who covered the Simpson trial in 1994 and later joined Fox News, called the Simpson book "disgusting."

"I think he's demonstrating that he made a fool of the jury in Los Angeles and all of the black community across the country that supported him," Rivera said.

Bill O'Reilly, whose "The O'Reilly Factor" is the highest-rated show on Fox News, also decried the Simpson book and special. "If every American walked away from the O.J. garbage, it wouldn't happen," he said.

O'Reilly made sure to point out that his show and the Fox News Channel have "nothing to do with the Simpson situation."

Meanwhile, one of the nation's largest superstore chains, Borders Group Inc., expects Simpson's new book to have "strong sales," but will donate profits to charity.

The nation's other large bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble, Inc., will also sell Simpson's "If I Did It" — but has no plans to donate proceeds.

"Barnes & Noble will carry O.J. Simpson's new book, 'If I Did It,' just as we do every book in print," spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said Friday in a statement. Keating said Barnes & Noble had not seen the book and did not know how it would be promoted.

Bill Nasshan, Borders' senior vice president of adult trade merchandising, said in a statement: "As always with publicity books like this, we prepare for strong sales, but ultimately it is up to the customers' reaction to the publicity."

Borders spokeswoman Ann Binkley said Friday that the book will have "easily visible" placement in stores, but there would be no special promotion and any profits will be donated to a charity that benefits victims of domestic violence.

"We believe it's the right thing to do. Period," Binkley said.

Numerous independent stores, appalled by Simpson's book, have said either they won't sell it or will offer limited copies and give away the proceeds.

"We probably won't stock the book, but if somebody comes and asks for it, we'll order it for them and then donate the money," said Lise Friedman, manager of Dutton's Brentwood Books, located in the Los Angeles County community where Simpson lived at the time of the murders.

"If I Did It" comes out Nov. 30, following a two-part interview on Fox, and interest appears strong but not overwhelming. Since the book's announcement late Tuesday, it has steadily climbed on the best seller list of Amazon.com, reaching No. 20 as of Friday afternoon.

According to an official of the Mystery Writers of America, Simpson's book will essentially be treated as "true crime," a genre that traditionally sells best at superstores, with independent sellers preferring purely fictional works. Reed Farrell Coleman, executive vice president of MWA, also said independent stores had more reason to worry about anger against the Simpson book.

"An independent store depends more on a faithful clientele, which it can't afford to offend. Superstores are more likely simply to respond to public demand," Coleman said.

Victims' relatives are angry at the planned publication of the book in which Simpson discusses how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend "if I did it."

"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 said in an interview broadcast Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of murder in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman after a trial that became a source of national racial tension. He was later found liable for the deaths in a wrongful-death suit filed by the Goldman family but has failed to pay the $33.5 million judgment.

Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, accused publisher Judith Regan of "promoting the wrongdoing of criminals" and commercializing abuse.

She added: "It's unfortunate that Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond."

On Friday, publisher Judith Regan of ReganBooks, a HarperCollins imprint, said she took on "If I Did It" because she was a victim of domestic violence and thought any proceeds would go to Simpson's children.

In an eight-page statement, Regan said Simpson approached her with the idea for the book, in which he hypothesizes how he would have committed the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

"I didn't know what to expect when I got the call that the killer wanted to confess," Regan said in the statement titled "Why I Did It." "But I knew one thing. I wanted the confession for my own selfish reasons and for the symbolism of that act. For me, it was personal."

Although Regan has acknowledged that Simpson does not directly say he killed the pair, she said she considers the book to be his confession.

"My son is now 25 years old, my daughter 15," the publisher said in her statement. "I wanted them, and everyone else, to have a chance to see that there are consequences to grievous acts. ... And I wanted, as so many victims do, to hear him say, 'I did it and I am sorry.'

"I didn't know if he would. But I wanted to try. I wanted his confession."

Regan, known for such tabloid best sellers as Jose Canseco's "Juiced," said she did not pay Simpson for the book. "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.

"What I wanted was closure, not money," she wrote.

Regan will interview the former football star in a two-part, sweeps-month showcase on Fox Television Nov. 27 and 29. The interview is billed as a hypothetical discussion of how Simpson might have killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994.

"You know, I'm curious about what O.J. Simpson has to say, too, but, I wanted to hear it on the witness stand," said Sara Nelson, Editor in Chief of the trade magazine Publishers Weekly. "I don't want to pay 20-odd dollars to hear it. I don't want to pay him 2 cents to hear it."
  • Sean Alfano

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