O.J. Simpson Hits Today's Media Coverage -- Where's Edward R. Murrow?

By: Joe Strupp It's not every day you get a phone message from O.J. Simpson. But in the process of completing a story for E&P's next print issue about Associated Press reporter Linda Deutsch, the longtime AP scribe known for her courtroom coverage revealed that she was among the very few reporters to whom Simpson still spoke.

So I called Simpson for a comment about Deutsch, and he returned the call. He confirmed his admiration and appreciation for her fair reporting during his 1995 murder trial. He was acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend Ron Goldman then, but subsequently lost a civil suit brought by the Goldman family. But that tribute to Deutsch turned into a lengthy commentary about the media, with Simpson claiming celebrity coverage has only worsened since he went to court.

"When Paris Hilton was going to jail last week, more people knew about that than knew that we were sending people into space that day," Simpson said in a phone interview from Miami. "It has replaced what is real news. There was always a place for it, but it was [gossip writer] Rona Barrett. Now it is the equivalent of Edward R. Murrow reporting it today."

Simpson, who spoke on his cell phone while returning from an early morning round of golf, said he still gets up to five calls a week from reporters seeking comment -- but declines virtually all of them. "People ask me about Paris Hilton, when [NFL running back] Ricky Williams was in trouble, Pac Man Jones," he said. "Everything [Hilton] went through, I know about. But why do I want to talk to the media? If I comment, it becomes a story."

Simpson cited the recent story about him being asked to leave a Louisville, Ky. restaurant during Kentucky Derby week. He said the owner asked him to exit and he agreed, but was surprised it became a story anyway. "A guy pulls me aside at a restaurant, he is not a fan and he won't serve me," Simpson recalled. "I could make a big deal about it because it was illegal. But I said it was no problem, but it became a newspaper story.

"In this day and age, when someone not serving me in Kentucky, with no argument, is a story and we don't know that someone is going up in space and we know more about Paris Hilton going to jail, something is wrong," he added.

Simpson said he recently agreed to a rare interview with Marquez Productions of Orlando, Fla. for a documentary on media coverage because he wanted to discuss what he perceived as inaccuracies and sensationalism.

"It is about time that the news media point out that they are not doing their job," he said about why he agreed to the interview. "Things have changed a lot from my trial until today. It is all about ratings, unfortunately.

"When I was growing up, to watch guys like Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley, I didn't know what they thought of the news," he added. "Legitimate news people are giving their opinions. It is hard to tell the difference between legitimate news people and Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly."

Simpson said he has responded to media inquiries by asking why the reporter in question is not focused on more important news. He cited a recent request from a Miami journalist for a comment after the Louisville incident, when he supposedly told the reporter, "If you can tell me how many people died in Fallujah in Iraq yesterday, I will talk to you. He couldn't."

He cited examples during his trial, in which celebrity coverage from tabloid sources, he claims, would gain credibility when mainstream press repeated them. He added that, during the trial, routine court events would gain more attention than what he believed were newsworthy moments.

He added that he no longer feels a need to defend himself. "Why is this still news?' he says of the twin murders and his trial.

His wife and Goldman were brutally slain exactly 13 years ago today, June 12, 1994.

Simpson also pointed to coverage of the controversial 2006 book, "If I Did It," which had been slated for release by Regan Books, but was pulled after extensive negative publicity. "I was one of the people that was happy the book didn't come out," he said. "What amounted to half a chapter didn't need to be in it. I edited some of it and when the writer asked me how someone might go about getting into the house, I told him."

He said he never wanted to discuss the murders in the book. "I didn't kill anyone and I won't talk about killing anyone so I didn't want to do it," he said, adding that he agreed to the book as a way to "straighten out some stuff about us, our divorce."

He said one of the poorly reported facts about his marriage is that Nicole was actually trying to reconcile with him at the time of the murders. "But nobody likes to tell that side of the truth," he said. "That is a misconception of the situation that the media missed."

When asked if the book would ever be released without the controversial half-chapter, he said, "I don't know."

FLASH: "Sopranos" creator David Chase now says he MIGHT do a movie based on the show afterall. The story can be found here


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