Hype Begins as Simpson Video Is Set to Be Released


O.J. speaks.

The interview that was too hot for NBC, CNN and other networks and newspapers in the country is coming to your video store Friday, and you'll only have to pay $29.95 to get it.

But just a day before it hits store shelves, there are more questions surrounding "O.J. Simpson: The Interview" than the answers that are supposed to come from Simpson, who was acquitted in October of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Those questions have already sparked a furor in television circles, prompting a segment on "Dateline NBC" Wednesday night. "Hard Copy" has started airing outtakes and rehearsal footage from the video as part of a five-part series. There has also been some talk about Simpson's interviewer in the video, former Los Angeles anchorman Ross Becker, because of his paid involvement in the project.

In the 2 1/2-hour video, Simpson talks to Becker about the murder trial, the evidence presented against him, his alibi on the night of the murder, his acquittal, his breakup with girlfriend Paula Barbieri the night before the murder, and his search for the so-called real killers. He also takes Becker on a guided tour of his mansion as he describes what was happening the night of the murders.

"Finally, O.J. Simpson breaks his silence and responds to the American public," proclaims a commercial for the video, which was filmed last month at Simpson's Brentwood estate. Viewers can dial (800) OJTELLS to place an order by phone.

Becker told "Dateline" correspondent John Larson he felt that Simpson was lying during the interview.

Simpson's answers about the case "just didn't sound right," Becker said. "It didn't fit with the facts. There are so many coincidences of his blood, his hair at the scene. And when I asked him, some of his answers, frankly, to me personally, did not sit very well."

The producer of the video, Tony Hoffman of H & K L.L.C., declined to release much preview footage. In one short segment that was released, Simpson is shown entering a room to face Becker. Becker asks: "So why would you do this interview?"

Becker told Larson: "He said to make money. And I asked him if he considered it blood money. He said, '[Prosecutor] Marcia Clark has a book deal, she's making millions of dollars on this. [Prosecutor] Chris Darden has a book deal and is making millions of dollars on this.' He believes he has the right to make a deal with some production company to make some money of his own."

Becker, a veteran local newsman who left KCOP Channel 13 and Los Angeles last year because he said he was frustrated with the "sold-out, disgusting, tabloid" brand of television journalism, provided a few more details of the interview during the "Dateline" segment.

He said that Simpson explains who the shadowy figure was that chauffeur Alan Park said he saw enter Simpson's house on the night of the murders. The prosecution had claimed that the figure was Simpson returning after committing the murders.

Park had come to the Simpson house to pick up the former football legend and take him to the airport.

Becker also said that Simpson felt police were determined to frame him for the murders.

Simpson's statements contradict defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.'s contention that Simpson was hitting golf balls and was in the shower at the time of the murder.

Hoffman hired Simpson and Becker for the project. Under terms of the agreement, Becker was allowed to ask any questions of Simpson, and Simpson was not informed in advance about any of the questions, sources said. The only ones present in the room during the interview were Simpson, Becker and three cameramen. However, a few of Simpson's attorneys were on the premises.

Simpson will share in the profits of the video. Those associated with the project declined to say how much Becker was paid, adding that Simpson was paid far less than a widely reported $3 million.

In an Associated Press interview, Hoffman said the video contains "some very, very revealing information," but Simpson "doesn't reveal the real killer nor does he admit he did it."

"If he revealed the real killer," said Hoffman, "this video wouldn't be selling for only $29.95."

Simpson had originally been scheduled to talk with NBC anchors Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric after his acquittal, but he backed out at the last minute after his attorneys voiced opposition about the detailed questioning Simpson would have undergone. CNN legal correspondent Greta Van Sustren said in December that Simpson had agreed to an interview with her, but the deal apparently was never finalized.

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