OJ Simpson: Murdoch tried 'to buy families' silence'

The 'fictional' murder account and TV special have been scrapped, but News Corp is still being dragged into a £15m pay-out row
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The Independent US

Rupert Murdoch may have abruptly cancelled a planned book and television special in which O J Simpson openly speculates how he could have - strictly hypothetically - murdered his wife. But the furore is far from over for the mogul and his News Corp media empire.

The families of both Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, who was murdered with her over a decade ago, have accused the Murdoch empire of trying to buy their silence.

The book, entitled If I Did It, was meant to go on sale at the end of this week, to coincide with a two-part interview with Simpson conducted by Judith Regan, head of News Corp's trashiest publishing imprint, ReganBooks. The Fox broadcasting network, another part of the Murdoch empire, planned to showcase the release.

Mr Murdoch personally pulled the plug after his organisation was accused of exploiting the notorious double murders. But Nicole's sister, Denise Brown, told a TV interviewer last week that she and others had been approached by a company representative before the cancellation, and essentially asked how much it would take to keep them happy.

"They wanted to offer us millions of dollars," she said,"for, like, 'oh I'm sorry' money. But they were still going to air the show." The family turned the offer down flat. A News Corp spokesman acknowledged that negotiations over money had taken place with both families, but insisted there were "no strings attached".

The revelation is nevertheless exquisitely embarrassing for Mr Murdoch. It entangles News Corp in the continuing furore over the settlement that O J Simpson was supposed to have paid out to the Browns and the Goldmans. One year after his acquittal on murder charges, he was found civilly liable for the deaths of his estranged wife and her friend and ordered to pay more than $30m (£15m) to the victims' families. Thanks to the canniness of his lawyers and the property laws in Florida, where he lives, the former football star and actor has successfully resisted paying a penny.

Simpson was offered $3.5m for the book and television deal, and has acknowledged that he was at least partially paid, despite the cancellation.As for the print run: the hundreds of thousands of copies were due to be pulped. Inevitably some popped up on eBay before being withdrawn.