Fox Axes O.J. Project

NEW YORK Fox won’t be airing its planned O.J. Simpson TV special after all.

The network’s parent issued a statement Monday afternoon indicating that it was canceling both the special and corresponding book, If I Did It: Here’s How It Happened, in which Simpson detailed how he would have gone about murdering his wife, Nicole, if in fact he had been the killer.

A civil court found him responsible for the deaths of both Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1994. That same year, however, he was acquitted of murder charges in the case brought in criminal court in Los Angeles.

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., said in a statement: “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson.”

Condemnation of Fox’s decision to go ahead with the special was widespread. Even commentators at the network’s sibling Fox News expressed out, including Bill O’Reilly.

Agency executives were surprised to hear that the network was airing the special in the first place and doubly shocked to hear that Fox indicated there would be sponsors in the program, which had been set to air Nov. 27 and 29.

“Who in their right mind would do it?” asked Paul Hindle, director of communications planning at WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam. “I can’t imagine any mainstream brand” would want to be associated with such a program. Hindle was quoted in a story on the Simpson special that appears in today’s print issue of Adweek.

Other agency executives were surprised that Fox was airing the program at all, given the tasteless nature of the content.

“Any respect that Fox has built up since the Temptation Island days and the When Animals Attack days goes right out the window with this special,” said the head buyer at a top 10 media agency.

Publication of the book had been set for Nov. 30, the day after the second part of the TV special was to have aired.