OJ cancels live TV show at last minute

TIM CORNWELL

Washington

OJ Simpson's return to public life took a step backwards yesterday when he cancelled at the 11th hour his first television interview, scheduled for live broadcast across the US and the world last night.

"It has become clear that NBC has . . . concluded that this would be a time and an opportunity to retry me," he said in a statement read by his attorney Johnnie Cochran. "I look forward to addressing all questions at a time when reason can prevail."

The NBC network said Mr Simpson's attorneys objected to the free-wheeling format envisaged for the interview.

Mr Simpson was acquitted last week of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman.

The NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw, said that despite a "clear understanding" that nothing was off-limits, Mr Simpson's attorneys persuaded him to withdraw, concerned the interview could be used in civil suits brought against him by the victims' families.

The former football star had agreed to be interviewed by Mr Brokaw and the morning television host Katie Couric on the network that used to employ him as a sports commentator.

It would have been his first appearance before an American public that widely believes him to be a murderer, despite the jury's verdict. Earlier plans for an interview broadcast on a pay-per-view basis were dropped after major cable distributors refused to be involved.

Mr Simpson, who recently hired another prominent lawyer, Robert Baker, to defend him in the civil suits, looked again yesterday like a man defended at every move by expensive attorneys.

After NBC announced the interview, its switchboards were jammed with more than 10,000 mostly angry phone calls.

Mr Simpson did not testify at his trial, and has only spoken briefly by phone to one television show since his acquittal.

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