October 11, 1995
Web posted at: 1:10 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Anne McDermott
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Hugh Grant did it. Michael Jackson did it. And now it's O.J. Simpson's turn to give the wheel of media opinion his own spin.
Simpson will be interviewed Wednesday night on NBC's Dateline. NBC says Simpson, who once worked for the network, will be asked tough questions. But even if Simpson does well in the interview, it's going to be a struggle to rehabilitate his media image.
The lawyers started working on Simpson's image long before the acquittal, and long before Simpson himself got in the game.
"I did not, could not and would not have committed this crime," Simpson told Judge Lance Ito outside the presence of the jury.
After the acquittal, Simpson's son Jason read a statement to the media from his father. Simpson himself later phoned CNN's "Larry King Live" to assure King's audience "there was no shadowy figure coming down the driveway."
At times it seemed the lawyers would never stop talking about the case, even when they talked about how people should stop talking about it.
"This man has been acquitted, and it's like, I mean, you know, how long will we have to keep talking about this?" asked Simpson's attorney, Johnnie Cochran. The answer: As long as it takes to get Simpson back to his pre-defendant days.
"He was a commercial spokesman and a barely adequate actor," said Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw. "That means he needs ... public acceptance, and if he doesn't get public acceptance, he doesn't have much of a future if he wants to make any money."
For Simpson, Wednesday is the test, the big network interview. "He'll be very compelling and be very persuasive," Shaw said.
He'll have to be. Protesters plan to demonstrate outside the network's Burbank studios Wednesday. Tammy Bruce of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization of Women will be there. "This is essentially, for NBC, an O.J. info-mercial disguised as Dateline," she said.
An NBC spokesperson defended the interview. "We have confidence in the journalistic process and believe this will be a hard-hitting, thorough news interview."
"It had better be," Shaw said. "People need to hear Simpson answer tough questions."
Among the questions Shaw would pose to Simpson: Why did you flee? Why did you have a passport and a disguise and all that money with you? Why did you say nothing in that letter or in the first weeks after the case about wanting to find the people who did the murder?
Rehabilitation has been possible for other celebrities, and some have managed to do it quickly. But for others, it can take years. Remember Richard Nixon?
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