CNN O.J. Simpson Trial

NBC and Simpson scramble for spin control

October 13, 1995
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jill Brooke

(CNN) -- It's the latest news in a seemingly endless saga. O.J. Simpson canceled his first television interview with NBC since his nine-month double-murder trial ended. Now, both NBC and Simpson are doing spin control.

Simpson

Like Monday morning quarterbacks, critics dissected and analyzed the impact of Simpson canceling his TV interview.

"NBC looks ridiculous," Tom Shales of the Washington Post, said on "Larry King Live" Wednesday night.

Vanity Fair columnist Dominick Dunne agreed. "They are left out there with egg on their face."

Time magazine writer Richard Zoglin says he understands why Simpson canceled, but that doesn't help his image much. "O.J. had to do it because of the civil law suits, but it makes him look more guilty to the public."

Cochran

And he didn't face the cameras either when he tried to explain why he dropped out of the interview. He dispatched Johnnie Cochran to do that. "I wanted a conversation, not a confrontation," Cochran read Simpson's words to the press Wednesday.

But NBC News could not afford that type of interview, especially after Diane Sawyer's controversial interview with Michael Jackson and his wife Lisa Marie Presley. ABC News may have scored ratings, but was widely criticized for throwing softball questions.

Fink

Even before the interview, NBC was accused of blurring the line between news and entertainment while chasing down the interview. Brook asked People Magazine columnist Mitchell Fink, "You told CNN that NBC news furnished questions to O.J. prior to the interview, but O.J. and NBC denied this." Fink says that he stands by his story. "My sources tell me that O.J. knew, and that is why he canceled."

NBC News was also under fire because of NBC president Don Ohlmeyer's close relationship with Simpson. NBC News President Andrew Lack addressed the controversy when he called in to "Larry King Live" Wednesday night.

"Ohlmeyer was the intermediary in this," Lack said. "NBC News does what it has to do as a serious news organization. But we work through intermediaries in all kinds of situations like this. I don't discount that there is no question it is awkward.

"Needless to say, if Don Ohlmeyer worked for ABC News, I say ABC News would be having the conversation that he had."

As it turned out, Simpson decided to have a conversation with The New York Times. Simpson's style in the Times interview has turned him into a guerrilla celebrity, someone who ambushes unsuspecting people with unchallenged commentary. His first such demonstration was in during his trial, and now with the Times.

Zoglin says that the Times interview is a little too convenient for Simpson. "On television, you are penalized for avoiding questions. People see you toss and turn. But in newspapers, no one sees that, and you can just dodge questions."

After losing the interview, NBC News says that the network took the high ground by refusing to surrender journalistic standards.

"If we were going to conduct a serious news interview with O.J.," Lack says, "we needed to deal with the questions that were on everyone's mind that needed to be answered."

And until the next scheduled interview, wherever it may occur and in whatever venue, those questions remain in limbo.



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