HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM HOW WE HANDLED THE BIG STORIES OF THE PAST?
A former colleague of mine, someone I consider a real treasure in journalism, posted on my facebook page her reaction to my continuing dialog about Chris Brown’s behavior: “why does anyone care about these people?” Here’s my fast answer:
How O.J. Simpson Tried to Bat Us Back on His Story
In June 1994, the great Roone Arledge, then president of ABC News, put me in charge of O.J. Simpson coverage for all his primetime magazine shows. At the time, there were four hour-long shows each week: Day One, Turning Point, PrimeTime Live and 20/20.
I had missed the first few days of the Simpson story. Ironically, I was in Washington, D.C. with Sam Donaldson, working on what, until then, was the biggest story of the year: an exclusive interview with Paula Corbin Jones who had filed a sexual harassment suit against the President. (Funnily enough, I had to debate an ABC News vice president on “why we should give airtime to this woman and her lawsuit,” which might be argued today was the first step which led to the President’s impeachment.)
The Paula Jones interview aired not as the lead but in second position on the show Thursday night, behind the O.J. Simpson updates. I quickly returned to Los Angeles early the next morning, on Friday, the day Simpson was supposed to turn himself in to police but instead led them on that fateful “low-speed white Bronco chase” that turned the story upside down and created a national viewing event that would continue for another year and a half.
Earlier in the week from Washington, D.C., I had quietly asked a freelancer/friend to get me the Simpson divorce papers from the courthouse. The story was moving so fast, the PrimeTime Live producers on the scene had no time at all to even look at the file. But late Friday night, as I read page after page, I saw it was all there — the admission of O.J. Simpson’s prior violence against his wife and the details of the domestic violence program he was supposed to complete.
Saturday morning I called my old friend Roy Firestone, the former ESPN sports anchor who I was certain must have interviewed Simpson. It turned out, Roy had actually interviewed him years before about the wife beating charges. The tapes were somewhere in storage and he was more than happy to dig them out for me, but he warned me that back then, in more innocent times, he had not pressed O.J. Simpson very hard to account for his behavior.
Later that nght, we aired a one-hour Turning Point, a broadcast that would drive O.J. Simpson into a fury. From behind bars, he insisted that his only lawyer at the time, Bob Shapiro, call me and Barbara Walters on his behalf to demand apologies, retractions and more. We got it all wrong, Simpson had declared, even though we hadn’t strayed from the exact language in the divorce documents and his own words on tape.
We now know that Nicole Brown kept a diary which noted O.J. Simpson’s first abuse of her in 1977. She kept the photo of her battered face in a safety deposit box. She called 911 after Simpson broke the door jam of her condominium while kicking down the door. Mark Fuhrman answered another 911 call after Simpson shattered the windshield of her Mercedes Benz with a baseball bat. And we also know that on June 12, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s violence escalated to a double murder when he slashed Nicole’s throat from behind, as if slaughtering a farm animal, and stabbed to death a bystander: her friend, Ron Goldman.
DOES NICOLE’S BATTERED FACE NOT LOOK JUST LIKE RIHANNA’S?
Nicole Simpson’s battered face was once so beautiful, it haunts. So does Rihanna’s.
The bruises on their foreheads look so similar. I wonder, is that where blood coagulates when you’re beaten on the top, or side of your head?
We all should know better by now. We now know so much more about hair-trigger tempers and the men who cannot control them. And we know even more about giving stars the puppy pass given O.J. Simpson once upon a time.
I learned of these details after posting my first take on Chris Brown and added them to dailyXpress yesterday: ***THIS JUST IN: Chris Brown threw both a cooler and a chair at different times. After he left the set, his behavior was described as “batshit.” He spotted a cooler by the props department and threw that towards the office of the executive producer. He then continued the tirade as he walked down to his dressing room. Once he and his entourage were in the dressing room, the door was closed and a chair was thrown through the window, presumably by Brown.
Yet Robin Roberts so far has left her comments as “We wish Chris Brown well,” and BET greeted him with a sympathetic, “How are you doin’?”
It’s why I care about this story. It’s still not to late for BET and all my pals at GMA and throughout ABC News to stand up a little taller.