On Thursday, Friedman addressed the company in her weekly marketing meeting. “Judith says she has done what Marcia Clark could not do,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the book.”
Someone raised a hand. “Don’t you think we should donate the profits to domestic-violence victims?”
Friedman pulled herself up. “Everyone knows how charitable I am and the company is,” she said. “But we are not planning on donating the profits of this book.”
L’Affaire O.J. had become a truly massive scandal. And here is where, for Regan, the drama accelerated ominously. Regan has always been confident of her ability to use the press to control a situation, and she began to go public with her frustrations. As it happened, though, this was just what News Corp. executives had begun to realize they needed: a villain, a scapegoat, distancing the company from the project, making it one woman’s mad dream, and allowing them to reap some of the benefits. It was decided that Regan should be allowed to say whatever she wanted, says a source close to the situation—let the lady be the lightning rod, let her take the abuse from journalists. Many have suggested that Roger Ailes was the architect of this strategy, given the fact that a lot of the heat was coming from people within the News Corp. universe, notably from Ailes protégés like Bill O’Reilly. And a lot of it, in an organization filled with loose cannons, and looser lips, was simply piling on, not rational corporate behavior at all. The tale of the O.J. book, of a powerful publisher transgressing a simple and obvious moral line for profit, was perfect for Fox’s shrill commentators—even if it did happen to be about one of their own.
Earlier in the week, Regan read a monologue on her Sirius radio program about her history of abuse and her need to see O.J. confess on behalf of all battered women everywhere (she has long declared that her ex-husband abused her). On Thursday, the transcript, which News Corp. executives had access to, was leaked to Drudge, and picked up on Friday by Col Allan of the New York Post, who’d had numerous run-ins with Regan. To many observers, the four-page screed that the Post printed was evidence that Regan had lost all sense of proportion. In fact, she never submitted it for publication. “How anyone got their hands on that transcript,” says a source at Sirius, “is the $64,000 question.” According to a source close to the situation, News Corp. put it forth as part of its media strategy. (News Corp. sources allege that Regan released the transcript to Drudge.) When Regan’s ex-husband began to defend himself against her claims of abuse in the press, Regan told the New York Post that she wanted them to run photographs of her beatings, but then never produced them.
The galleys of the book were finally ready on Friday, and distributed to a small circle of executives. They were unenthusiastic. On Saturday, Regan began to get worried, and suggested they hold If I Did It so that a letter from a forensic psychologist could be placed under the front cover. She wanted to make it clear that the book was intended to be read with the understanding that these were the ramblings of a psychopath. Everyone was getting nervous. News Corp. COO and president Peter Chernin and others brainstormed for a way to survive the media storm but not abandon the project—donate the money to domestic-violence victims or make a deal with the victims’ families, the Browns and the Goldmans. Jackson, Murdoch executive vice-president Gary Ginsberg, and News Corp. general counsel Lawrence Jacobs took a flight to Indianapolis at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, and sat down with the families. Hashing out the details, they agreed to disgorge all of their profits and then some to the Browns and the Goldmans.
By Monday morning, Jacobs, Ginsberg, and Chernin were having misgivings about the deal. The affiliates were dropping out, the media storm was continuing, and they weren’t going to get any money from this? Regan sent an e-mail saying that she, too, wanted to cancel the book—she felt the damage was done. She was surprised, though, when she talked to an executive who said that they were also canceling the TV show. She was finally going to be a heroine—why was everyone always making her the devil? “It was like James Cameron with Titanic,” says one source. “She was out there getting her ass kicked, and she wanted to prove everyone wrong, to show them her work of art.” The plug was pulled publicly. Murdoch, reached early in the morning in Australia, saw no reason to delay. Though the Browns had been agreeable to a payout of about $5 million, Nicole’s sister Denise Brown went on the Today show and told them she’d rejected News Corp.’s proposed “hush money” out of hand.