So, was it a confession? Or was he speaking hypothetically?
The questions remain, even after what Fox billed as O.J. Simpson’s “shocking hypothetical account” of the 1994 murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman.
It took 12 years for tapes of an interview Simpson did to surface, and Sunday night for two hours audiences were able to finally hear his own words in what Fox called “O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession.”
Simpson was acquitted of the murders in a criminal trial that gripped the nation, but he was deemed liable for their wrongful deaths in a civil lawsuit.
The former NFL star did the interview with Judith Regan as a companion to a book that, in 2006, was about to be published by HarperCollins, where Regan was an editor and publisher. The book, titled “If I Did It,” was promoted as a hypothetical first-hand story from Simpson on the murders. That book was not published because of public outrage until the Goldman family went to court and got the rights to the unpublished manuscript to collect on the $33.5 million civil verdict against Simpson in the civil case.
The Goldmans changed the title to “If I Did It: Confessions of The Killer,” and found another publisher.
That videotaped interview, on the other hand, had never been heard publicly until Sunday.
Before that night in ‘94
In the interview, Simpson described in detail multiple instances of domestic violence in his years with Nicole Brown Simpson, including an incident on New Year’s Eve 1989.
Simpson said he and Nicole arrived home after a party and were affectionate with each other but Nicole was upset – he said he later learned – because she thought he bought earrings for another woman.
“I threw her out and I really threw her out with no concern for her well-being. I mean, she got physical with me and obviously I’m bigger, I got more physical with her, which I shouldn’t have done, historically I just leave,” Simpson said in the interview.
“And I didn’t just leave and a little later, um, my, uh, housekeeper came and told me that the cops were outside. And the one thing that hurts me as much as anything in this … besides being considered by some a murderer is, um, being a batterer. “
In the interview, Simpson’s emotions and comments concerning his ex-wife ranged from ongoing antagonism starting in the early years when she wouldn’t leave their baby for time alone with him, to continued jealousy toward the men she was dating after they split up, and then to thoughts he had for Nicole at her casket during her funeral.
“If you’re angry with a person, upon their death – when they die – it’s not like … anger disappears, right?”
Simpson remembered that someone later told him he leaned over and kissed her in her casket and said, “I’m sorry.”
He said in the interview that he didn’t remember saying that, but he did remember Nicole’s mother questioning him: “I just recall Judy Brown pulling me over, looking me in the eye and saying to me, ‘O.J., did you have anything to do with this?’ and I know I told her, ‘No.’”
A recital, hitting golf balls to relax, and then …
Simpson said he had flown from New York to Los Angeles to be there on June 12, 1994 – which became the date of the killings – for his daughter Sydney’s dance recital.
He described seeing Nicole at the recital: “It was almost like she was trying to be a teenager again … dating all these much younger guys … wearing the shortest, tightest thing she was wearing … sometimes you think something is inappropriate.”
After the recital was over he didn’t go out to dinner with the family because Nicole didn’t want him there, according to the Fox program.
Simpson said he went home instead and started chipping golf balls to relax, but he couldn’t.
Friends were telling him about the fast life Nicole was leading, and Simpson was concerned for his children.
Before he went through a killing scenario, he told his interviewer that it was “difficult” to do because it’s “hypothetical.”
He added, “I know and I accept the fact that people are gonna feel whatever way they’re going to feel.”
That night in ‘94
At one point in the interview, Simpson referenced a friend, whom he identified only as “Charlie,” who Simpson says went with him to confront Brown. Charlie had a knife – a knife that belonged to Simpson, who said he kept it under the seat in his car. The knife would be used as the murder weapon in the scenario.
Simpson said while he and “Charlie” were there, a “guy” showed up. That guy was Ron Goldman.
“In the mood I was in I started having words with him,” Simpson said, describing Goldman as “a guy that I didn’t really recognize. I may have seen him around, but I really didn’t recognize him.”
Interviewer Regan, reading from Simpson’s “If I Did It” book, said Goldman had claimed he came to return a pair of glasses left at the restaurant the Browns dined at after the recital.
Simpson recalled words to that effect but said it was “immaterial” because he was concerned about “everything that was going on … was fed up with it, I guess.”
Simpson continued his scenario, saying Nicole came out of her house and they begin to “have words … who is this guy, why is he here, what’s going on?”
Interviewer Regan, recalling from the book, quoted Nicole as saying, “This is my house get the F out of here.”
“Which I didn’t like…” O.J. chimed in.
“As things got heated, I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself and this guy kind of got into a karate thing. And I said, ‘Well, you think you can kick my ass?’ And I remember I grabbed the knife – I do remember that portion, taking a knife from Charlie – and to be honest after that I don’t remember, except I’m standing there and there’s all kind of stuff around and …” he said, his voice trailing off.
Simpson agreed with a quote from the “If I Did It” book, saying he “had never seen so much blood” in in his life, breaking out in laughter to say once again his scenario was a hypothetical one.
He later described a grisly scene: “I don’t think any two people could be murdered the way they were without everybody being covered in blood.”
Simpson described a memory lapse in taking off the infamous glove that many believe helped get him acquitted at his criminal trial in 1995. Without the bookends of “hypothetical” Simpson said, “I had no conscious memory of doing that but obviously I must have because they found the glove there.”
“If” something like this took place in “anybody’s life,” you would “probably … have trouble wrapping your mind around it,” Simpson explained.
“It was horrible – absolutely horrible.”
Simpson said that night he went to his home and took a shower.
The back story
The years-long gap between the former NFL running back sitting for a videotaped interview with Judith Regan in 2006 and the airing of the interview Sunday night was explained last week by Terry Wrong, executive producer of the Sunday night program. He said the interview tapes were originally shelved because the families of the victims feared that Simpson would profit from the interview. This time, though, Simpson stands to make not one dime from the telecast.
“Their thinking is, ‘We know he’s free again, we know him and we’ll think he’ll hang himself in this interview by implicating himself, so let’s see it,’” Wrong said in a teleconference, speaking of the victims’ families.
After the interview was originally conducted, Regan, who was the publisher at News Corp.-owned HarperCollins, saw her book deal withdrawn amid backlash over the prospective “If I Did It” book and a TV special Fox planned to air. She was subsequently fired and filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit against the company, which was eventually settled.
Regan told CNN on Monday that she found the interview that aired the night before “incredibly disturbing.”
“I had a friend text me last night and say, ‘Remind me never to play poker with Judith Regan,’ because, she said, I kept my poker face throughout the interview,” she said. “It was very difficult to sit and talk to him with the things that he was saying without reacting in the way in which I felt. So it was traumatic to revisit it. It’s a traumatic, sad, tragic story that I think affected a lot of people in a lot of different ways.”
Interviewed on Fox about the circumstances of the 2006 interview, Regan said Simpson “felt that if he could claim that it was hypothetical at this point, he would have deniability with the children – that was what he said. But from my point of view who would possibly do this even as a hypothetical unless they had committed the murders?”
Filmmaker Wrong, who produced the special that aired Sunday night, said the producers reached out to Simpson, who did not respond.
Simpson’s legal team did not immediately issue a response to the program.
An attorney for Fred Goldman said before the special aired that the family welcomed “the airing of these tapes.”
“While justice has eluded our family, Fox Entertainment enables everyone to make their own judgment,” the statement added.
Simpson was released from prison in October, having served time for kidnapping and armed robbery in his attempt to recover sports memorabilia.
CNN’s Brian Lowry and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.