OJ Simpson interview scrapped by Murdoch may be leaked

Rupert Murdoch, under pressure, may have scrubbed his company's plans to publish a controversial book by OJ Simpson — and cancel an interview with the former sports star on Fox television — but that is not the end of the story.

Copies of the pseudo-confessional book, called If I Did It, had already been shipped to bookstores, and although retailers have been asked to return all copies in their unopened boxes, bootleg copies are already in circulation — in some cases commanding a record price.

There is every likelihood pirated copies will soon be on sale on the streets. The same could apply to the TV interview, which is already in the can.

In cancelling the TV interview, originally scheduled to air next week, the chairman of Fox admitted buying the manuscript, for a reported $3 million, may have been a big mistake.

The decision to recall the book followed massive protests in the US. Critics even called for a boycott of any companies that might have advertised on the television programme.

Several TV stations affiliated to Fox said they were themselves cancelling airing the interview. Even some top ranking journalists working for News Corp and the Fox TV network protested. Some, off the record, even suggested the deal had been a "disaster" for the Murdoch companies.

Even the New York Post reported the pull-back on its front page under the headline "OJ Slashed — knife falls on book and TV deal." The rival New York Daily News was much more accusatory. It described the deal as "despicable" and "too repulsive even for Rupert".

What will happen to the money that was paid upfront is uncertain. Legal experts say it is unlikely that OJ Simpson can be forced to hand the money back. Simpson, who is now 59 and living in Florida, refused to comment.

Meanwhile the family of the victims, OJ's wife Nicole, and a friend Ron Goldman, who OJ was accused — but acquitted — of murdering, have claimed efforts were made to "buy them off" by offering them a percentage of the proceeds of the deal. This has been denied.

As for Judith Regan, head of ReganBooks, a subsidiary of Harper Collins, itself a subsidiary of News Corp, who negotiated the deal, she is not considered likely to lose her job — or be punished in any way. It was, after all, some say, a business deal — even though it went awry.

Beyond his official statement, Murdoch has made no other comment.

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