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O.J. in the U.K.: Rehab tour kicks off

May 12, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT)

From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie

LONDON (CNN) -- When O.J. Simpson came to Britain Saturday, his troubles crossed the Atlantic with him. Among the throngs of Heathrow Airport visitors stretching to see him were those who would remind him of the double murder of which he was acquitted, including one woman who shouted, "Is the murderer in Britain?"

Still, Simpson hopes to rehabilitate his image here. "I like England," he told reporters (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound). He'll be appearing on a popular British television talk show, and will also address the prestigious Oxford Union, Oxford University's debating society.

Clifford

"It is important to remember that O.J. Simpson may think he is rehabilitating himself by coming here, but from the British perspective, he is appearing as kind of a bizarre joke at the Oxford Union, and he is appearing on kind of a soft television talk show," said newspaper columnist Anne Applebaum. "He certainly won't be treated any more seriously here because of that."

Max Clifford, Britain's public relations guru -- the "Mr. Fix-it" that high people seek out when they've hit a low point -- was hired in this instance by Granada Television to coordinate coverage of Simpson's United Kingdom "tour."

"He's defending himself," Clifford said. "I think any person's got the right to do that, particularly when you're being hounded and attacked by the media that seems to be totally biased against you and seems to have no respect for the findings of the judge and the jury in that particular case.

"What do you do about it? Well, you can either go quietly and disappear off the face of the earth -- if you can -- or you can stand up and fight."

So, Simpson will "stand up and fight" on a new TV chat show that has vowed it will not go lightly on him, and at the Oxford Union. For his TV appearance, he will receive the lordly sum of one pound, about $1.50 in U.S. currency. However, all his expenses, including a luxury hotel, will be paid. (51K AIFF sound or 51K WAV sound)

Walking

And there is potential future profit: He is testing the waters here to see whether he can revive a career in commercial endorsements.

"His activities while he's staying here will be going all around the world. Whether that's the start of a public relations comeback for O.J. Simpson, your guess is as good as mine," Clifford said.

Some reports say that if his trip to Britain is "successful" -- that is, if it generates good publicity -- Simpson may go to Japan. Many see that potential visit as the next step in what appears less a public relations exercise than a public relations exorcism.

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