If I Did It
|Author||O. J. Simpson|
Pablo Fenjves (ghostwriter)
The Goldman family
|Original title||If I Did It|
|Publisher||Beaufort Books (Regan Books/HarperCollins, before cancellation)|
|September 13, 2007|
|Preceded by||I Want to Tell You: My Response to Your Letters, Your Messages, Your Questions|
If I Did It is a book by ghostwriter Pablo Fenjves and by O. J. Simpson, in which Simpson puts forth a hypothetical description of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Simpson's former manager, Norman Pardo, claimed that Simpson was not involved in writing the book, but rather accepted, against Pardo's advice, $600,000 from ReganBooks and News Corporation to say he had written it and to conduct an interview.
Simpson was acquitted of the murders in a criminal trial (California v. Simpson) but later was found financially liable in a civil trial. Although the original release of the book was cancelled shortly after it was announced in November 2006, 400,000 physical copies of the original book were printed, and by June 2007, copies of it had been leaked online.
The book was originally due to be published by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, which was headed by editor and publisher Judith Regan. The television network Fox, which was a sister to HarperCollins via News Corporation at the time, was to also broadcast an interview special with Simpson to promote the book, entitled O. J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened. However, following objections to the special by several Fox station owners, the special was also canceled. Footage from the interview was aired, for the first time, during a subsequent Fox special, O. J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?, which aired in March 2018.
In August 2007, a Florida bankruptcy court awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family to partially satisfy the civil judgment. The book's title was changed to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, and this version was published by Beaufort Books, a New York City publishing house owned by parent company Kampmann & Company/Midpoint Trade Books. Comments were added to the original manuscript by the Goldman family, Fenjves, and journalist Dominick Dunne. The new cover design printed the word "If" greatly reduced in size compared with the other words, and placed inside the word "I".
Norman Pardo, Simpson's former manager, told The Huffington Post that the book was written by a ghostwriter without Simpson's involvement. Rather, Simpson had accepted, against Pardo's advice, $600,000 from the publisher ReganBooks and its parent company News Corporation to say he had written the book and to conduct an associated television interview on Fox. Pardo told the Huffington Post that Simpson had rationalized:
"Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book." He said, "That's cash." I said, "They're going to think you wrote it." He said, "So? Everybody thinks I'm a murderer anyway. They're not going to change their mind just because of a book."
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The first part of the If I Did It manuscript details Simpson's early relationship and marriage with Nicole Brown Simpson. The latter part of the manuscript describes details of the events on June 12, 1994, and about the murders as they could have occurred if Simpson had committed them. However, Simpson's attorney said that there is "only one chapter that deals with their deaths and that chapter, in my understanding, has a disclaimer that it's complete fiction." In Simpson's hypothetical scenario, he has an unwilling accomplice named "Charlie" who tells him to stop the murders, and whom Simpson ignores.
First release and its cancellation
The book was unofficially announced in the National Enquirer in late October 2006, but this was immediately denied by Simpson's lawyer. The book was then formally announced some weeks later in mid-November 2006 for release on November 30. Intense public criticism led to the cancellation of the book's publication and a related television interview, both from divisions of News Corporation (Fox and HarperCollins, of which ReganBooks was an imprint). According to a Newsweek story, all 400,000 printed copies were recalled for "pulping", except for one, locked away in a vault at News Corporation. A copy later appeared in an auction listing on eBay in September 2007; it eventually sold for over $250,000. James Wolcott of Vanity Fair also obtained a "pristine hardcover" copy of the book for a review published in January 2007.
The first version's cover, as released by HarperCollins, showed a photograph of Simpson with the words "I Did It" in red and the word "If" in white. The Beaufort version had the words "I Did It" in large type and the word "If" written in a tiny font and placed at the top of the "I". Neither version of the book has Simpson's name anywhere on the front cover.
HarperCollins and ReganBooks had planned to publish the book on November 30, 2006. The National Enquirer made unproven claims in October 2006 that Simpson would be paid US$3.5 million for the book. Judith Regan, the editor of ReganBooks and Simpson's interviewer in the planned Fox special, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "This is a historic case, and I consider this his confession." In one portion of an interview to promote the book, taped before the project was canceled, Regan said to Simpson, "You wrote, 'I have never seen so much blood in my life.'" Simpson responded, "I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood."
If I Did It ignited a storm of pre-publication controversy, largely due to the perception that Simpson was trying to profit from the two deaths for which his civil suit verdict had found him liable. "This is not about being heard. This is about trying to cash in, in a pathetic way, on some notoriety," said Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, felt that the book would "stir an awful lot of debate and make the culture take a real look at itself, and that may not be unhealthy".
Denise Brown, sister of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, expressed her hope that the publisher would take "full accountability for promoting the wrongdoing of criminals and leveraging this forum and the actions of Simpson to commercialize abuse." She went on to say that Simpson's two children would be "exposed to [his] inexplicable behavior and we will provide them with our love and support during this time. It's unfortunate that [O.J.] Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond." The proposed book also outraged the family of Ron Goldman, who criticized the publisher for "helping a murderer get his voice out there." According to lawyers for the family, they planned to attempt to garnish any earnings Simpson might get from the book. Fred Goldman, Ron's father, was awarded $33.5 million by a jury in 1997 for the wrongful death of his son. However, Simpson never paid this judgment due to a California law that prevents pensions from being used to satisfy judgments, and the fact that the bulk of his income comes from his NFL pension. Goldman described the book and television interview as "an all-time low" and "morally reprehensible to me ... to think you are willing to give somebody airtime about how they would murder two people."
The day after the announcement of its publication, an online boycott encouraged Americans to ignore the book and complain to publishers and booksellers. Similar boycotts were held in Australia and Europe. Within four days of the book's announcement, over 58,394 people had signed an online petition developed by Goldman's family, DontPayOJ.com, declaring their opposition to the book. Bookshops were divided about stocking the title in their stores. Numerous independent stores said either that they would not sell it or would offer limited copies and give away the proceeds. Borders Books and Waldenbooks said they would donate any profits made from the book to charities which would benefit victims of domestic violence, and a Borders spokesperson said they "believe it is the right of customers to decide what they read and what to buy, but we will not discount the title or promote it". Several stores in Canada said they would only order it for customers, but not stock it. In the days following the book's announcement, pre-orders put it in the top 20 of Amazon.com's bestseller list, though it had fallen to #51 when the book's cancellation was announced.
Legal experts theorized that Simpson might be able to avoid paying the Goldmans or Browns any money. "I think it's going to be difficult if [Simpson] arranges to have [book profits] deposited abroad," said lawyer Tom Mesereau. "It's one thing to enforce a judgment in America, and another to enforce it overseas." Mesereau said Simpson also might have profits "paid into a trust offshore or a corporation in a different name."
Fox television interview
Fox, a U.S. television network that was a sister to HarperCollins via News Corporation at the time, was to air a related, two-part, taped interview with Simpson, conducted by Regan, in which Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of Nicole and Goldman, "if he were the one responsible". The interview was scheduled to air on November 27 and November 29, 2006, timed to coincide with the book's release. The program was being produced under Fox's alternative programming department, headed by Mike Darnell, and not under the auspices of Fox News Channel. NBC said that it was approached to air the interview, but declined, saying, "This is not a project appropriate for our network." On November 16, 2006, Regan issued a statement claiming that her reason for recording the interview and releasing the book was an attempt to find closure after having been a battered woman herself. "The men who lied and cheated and beat me – they were all there in the room," she said. "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, do penance, and to amend his life. Amen."
Over a dozen Fox affiliates refused to carry the special, or decided to air it, but devote local advertising time to public service announcements. KSFX-TV in Springfield, Missouri, and WWCP-TV in Johnstown-Altoona-State College, Pennsylvania area were the first to turn down the special on November 17, 2006, along with KAYU-TV in Spokane, Washington, and WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky. Pappas Telecasting also planned to pre-empt the program on their Fox stations in four markets along with Fox affiliates KNDX in Bismarck-Minot, North Dakota; KMPH-TV in Fresno, California; KPTH in Sioux City, Iowa; KTVG-TV in Lincoln, Superior and Grand Island, Nebraska; and KPTM in Omaha, Nebraska. Fox affiliates KCPQ in Seattle—owned by Tribune Company—and XETV in San Diego/Tijuana—were both reportedly undecided, but each indicated that if they aired the special, they would not sell local ad time, instead giving that time to local domestic violence groups to air public service announcements.
Fenjves, a screenwriter and witness at Simpson's 1995 trial, ghostwrote Simpson's book. Fenjves stated in interviews that Simpson actively collaborated on the manuscript, and that Fenjves "knew" Simpson was "a murderer".
On November 20, 2006, News Corporation issued a statement saying that the book and television special had been cancelled. In the statement, News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said, "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson." The Associated Press called the book's cancellation "an astonishing end to a story like no other," noting that a publisher's withdrawing a book for its content "is virtually unheard of."
On November 21, 2006, Denise Brown accused Fox of trying to stop the Goldman and Brown families from criticizing the project by offering millions of dollars for their silence surrounding the project: "They wanted to offer us millions of dollars. Millions of dollars for, like, 'Oh, I'm sorry' money. But they were still going to air the show," Brown said. "We just thought, 'Oh my God.' What they're trying to do is trying to keep us quiet, trying to make this like hush money, trying to go around the civil verdict, giving us this money to keep our mouths shut."
Brown told NBC's Today that her family's response was: "Absolutely not." Fox confirmed that the Brown and Goldman families were offered profit participation deals for the projects but denies that it was hush money. "Last week, when concerns were raised by the public that we were profiting from this guy's story, we tried to work out some arrangement with the family. Never was there any suggestion of them being barred from talking about it. We would never suggest that," said News Corp spokesman Andrew Butcher.
Since the interview existed on tape, executives at Fox said it was likely to turn up somewhere or be leaked. Nearly twelve years later, Fox announced that it would air a special entitled O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?, on March 11, 2018. It featured footage from the interview, as well as analysis and discussion by host Soledad O'Brien and experts. It aired with limited commercial time, which was used to broadcast public service announcements addressing domestic violence. In the decade-old interview, Simpson initially used phrases like "I would" and "I'd think" in his hypothetical description of the event, but later moved to using first-person phrasing with sentences like "I remember I grabbed the knife", "I don't remember except I'm standing there", "I don't recall", and "I must have." Due to the change in phrasing, these comments were interpreted by many as being a form of confession, which stirred strong reactions in print media and the internet.
On August 14, 2007, it was reported that a literary agent for the Goldman family, Sharlene Martin, had made a deal to publish the book with the new subtitle "Confessions of the Killer". All of the original text was to remain intact, with the addition of "key commentary." This version of the book was released about a month later, on September 13, 2007. Some of the proceeds benefit the Ronald Lyle Goldman Justice Foundation, which was planned in 1995 to fund civil legal action against Simpson.
In February 2007, a Canadian publisher, Barclay Road Inc., expressed interest in publishing the book. Barclay Road CEO Herbert Becker said that public opinion turned against the book without anybody's really knowing its contents. He said his company would look into obtaining the rights to the book.
Transfer of rights
In June 2007, a federal judge ruled that Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, could pursue the publishing rights to Simpson's book. In July 2007, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family, who receive 90 percent of profits to help satisfy the $33.5 million wrongful death civil suit judgment against Simpson. After Goldman had won the rights to the book, he arranged to publish it under the new title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. The Goldman family's lawyers also announced intentions to pursue new publishing, film, or TV deals in order to receive some of $33.5 million awarded to them in the civil case.
Fred Goldman sued Lorraine Brooke Associates, a shell corporation, for the publishing rights after it filed for bankruptcy. After Goldman purchased the rights from the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, Nicole's father, Louis H. Brown, sued Goldman, attempting to stop the publication, but lost.
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