O.J. Simpson told The Associated Press he participated in the ill-fated “If I Did It” book and interview project for one reason — personal profit, acknowledging that any financial gain was “blood money.”
“This was an opportunity for my kids to get their financial legacy,” Simpson said in interviews this week with the AP after the book deal was abandoned by its publisher. “My kids understand. I made it clear that it’s blood money, but it’s no different than any of the other writers who did books on this case.”
The book, said to describe how he theoretically would have committed the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, had been scheduled for release Nov. 30 following the airing of a two-part Simpson interview on Fox on Monday and Wednesday.
News Corp., owner of Fox Broadcasting and publisher HarperCollins, canceled the project after a public outcry and objections by advertisers and booksellers.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Simpson said the project was not a confession to the slayings. “I made it clear from the first day I met the writer that I wasn’t involved,” Simpson said in a telephone interview broadcast on Miami’s WTPS-AM. “I said, ’I have nothing to confess.”’
Goldman’s family, meanwhile, asked News Corp. to turn over its rights to the now-canceled book and interview, an attorney said Wednesday.
In two AP telephone interviews this week from his Florida home, Simpson declined to say how much of an advance he received for the book but said it was less than the $3.5 million that has been reported. He said the money has already been spent, including some he used to meet his tax obligations.
Book would have been a best-seller, Simpson says
Simpson said he was convinced the book would have been a best-seller.
“My kids would have been coming into a lot of money,” he said, adding he desperately needs the cash because his retirement funds are dwindling.
Prepublication sales for “If I Did It,” had been strong, but not sensational. It cracked the top 20 of Amazon.com last weekend but had fallen to No. 51 by the time the cancellation was announced.
With “If I Did It” now a collector’s item, interest is much higher. Purported copies of the book have already been offered on eBay, with bids reaching up to $65,000. A seller in Ridgefield Park, N.J., posted pictures of the front and back cover and the inside flap.
Ebay spokesman Hani Durzy said Wednesday that the online auction house has been removing the book from the site because of copyright concerns.
Simpson, 59, said he deserved harsh criticism for his role in the project, but he complained that News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch got off easy.
“I’m taking heat and I deserve it,” Simpson said. “But Murdoch should not be taking the high road either.”
Publisher Judith Regan has portrayed the book as representing “O.J.’s confession,” and it reportedly contains a chapter where he explains how he could have committed the killings.
But the former football star says he didn’t commit the murders. He said the book was ghostwritten.
“When I saw what he wrote, I said, ‘Maybe you did it because they’re saying the chapter contains things only the killer would know.’ I don’t know these things,” Simpson said.
Simpson said Wednesday he never spoke to Regan until taping the TV interview.
“In the course of the interview I said, ’This is blood money and I hope nobody reads it,”’ Simpson told the AP.
He added, “Everybody who has written a book about this has taken blood money; you can’t have selective morality.”
Simpson said he was disappointed by Regan’s “confession” statement, although he noted, “I thought, ’This lady probably thinks I did it and I didn’t.”’
Simpson insisted he did not try to peddle the book to anyone, saying “a guy” he would not identify brought the proposal to one of his family members.
When Regan got involved, he said, he informed her he would not allow the book’s publication if it contained any graphic images.
“I told her I will not OK anything if you describe anyone cutting or stabbing,” he said.
Asked how he felt about the effect the book would have on the victims’ families, Simpson expressed bitterness toward Goldman’s father, Fred, who has denounced Simpson as a liar and murderer.
Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995 but was later found liable for the killings in a wrongful-death suit filed by the Goldman family. Simpson has failed to pay the $33.5 million judgment against him in that case, and his pensions and his Florida home cannot be seized.
He said Fred Goldman has helped drain his finances with “frivolous lawsuits,” including one he brought recently attempting to deprive Simpson of the commercial rights to his name. Although Simpson prevailed in court he said he spent $17,000 in legal fees.
Fred Goldman’s attorney, Jonathan G. Polak, said Goldman wants the rights to the material to ensure that all copies are destroyed and that News Corp. doesn’t sell the rights to “some sleazy cable pay-per-view operation or video site.”
After Murdoch canceled the book and interview, News Corp. subsidiary HarperCollins said all copies of the book will be destroyed.
Polak acknowledged that it was likely that copies of the book or portions of the interview would be leaked and appear in other media. But he said owning the rights might allow him to go to court and ensure any money from the projects goes to the families of the victims.
A call to a News Corp. seeking comment was not returned.
Simpson, 59, said his NFL pension pays only $1,700 a month and the private pension he amassed during the days when he was a TV pitchman and sports commentator is being halved next month because he’s had to dip into the principal.
Although he knew the project would bring an avalanche of negative publicity, Simpson said he was willing to face it “if that’s what it took.”
“You guys are going to dog me no matter what,” he told a reporter.
Despite his financial troubles, Simpson indicated he wasn’t entirely unhappy the project was abandoned.
“I feel like a man who’s had the weight of the world taken off me,” he said.