O.J. Simpson Project Could Turn on Web

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By HILLEL ITALIE
The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; 9:19 PM

NEW YORK -- The O.J. Simpson project is dead, but the book and the TV interview could turn up in bootleg form in this age of YouTube and eBay, when scandalous information seldom stays secret for long.

News Corp., owner of Fox Broadcasting and publisher HarperCollins, called off Simpson's "confession" Monday after advertisers, booksellers and even Fox personality Bill O'Reilly branded the project sick and exploitive.

A two-part interview had been scheduled to air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 on Fox, with the book, "If I Did It," to follow on Nov. 30.

HarperCollins spokeswoman Erin Crum said some copies had already been shipped to stores but would be recalled, and all copies would be destroyed. She would not say how long that would take, although industry insiders believe several days would be needed to destroy a print run that was likely in the hundreds of thousands.

But with the interview already taped, and truckloads of books either sitting in warehouses or headed back to the publisher, Simpson's supposedly hypothetical account of how he would have committed the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman appears all but certain to surface.

"A book becomes collectible when it's hard to find, and this will become very, very collectible, surely worth four figures," said Richard Davies, a spokesman for AbeBooks.com, an online seller that specializes in used and collectible books.

Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of the Crown Publishing Group, said tens of thousands of returned books are destroyed every day.

But it's entirely possible that the Simpson TV interview will get out in some form, said Jeff Jarvis, operator of the BuzzMachine Web log and a journalism professor at City University of New York.

"All life is on the record now," he said. "Anything you can do can get out there and get out there quickly."

The Simpson book will also almost certainly remain underground, with another publisher unlikely to take on "If I Did It."

Even Michael Viner, whose previous releases include a memoir by disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and a tell-all by four Hollywood call girls, said his Beverly Hills-based Phoenix Books was not interested.

"It's the public equivalent of doing a snuff film," said Viner, referring to films that claim to show a person being killed. "People can make money by doing snuff films, but no one wants to be associated with it."

The Simpson saga took another twist Tuesday when his former sister-in-law, Denise Brown, accused News Corp. of trying to buy her family's silence for millions of dollars.

A News Corp. spokesman confirmed that the company had conversations with representatives of the Brown and Goldman families over the past week and said that they were offered all profits from the book and TV show, but he denied it was hush money.

"There were no strings attached," News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher said.

Denise Brown told NBC's "Today" show that her family's response was: "Absolutely not."

"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."

Pre-publication sales for "If I Did It," had been strong but not exceptional. It cracked the top 20 of Amazon.com last weekend, but by Monday afternoon, at the time its elimination was announced, the book had fallen to No. 51.

___

AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch and Associated Press writer Greg Risling in Los Angeles also contributed to this report.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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