Last night, Fox broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which he ‘hypothesised’ how the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman ‘would have happened’ ‘if he had done it’.
The controversial interview was filmed in 2006, promoting Simpson’s controversial book If I Did It: Confessions of The Killer. It wasn’t shown at the time after promotional clips drew huge amounts of complaints and both the Goldman and Brown families made public statements against the book and the interview. Simpson and publishers HarperCollins were accused of attepting to make money off a pair of murders.
In the wake of renewed interest in the case thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made in America and the Emmy-winning drama series The People v. O.J. Simpson, Fox aired a new documentary, O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession, mixing new analysis with the long-shelved interview.
The interview, as a viewing experience, is deeply, deeply strange. the interviewer is publisher Judith Regan, head of the imprint putting the book out, so it’s essentially a big advert for a book both parties stand to gain from. Simpson frequently switches from claiming everything is hypothetical to recounting things in first-person, past-tense, which in itself is pretty odd. Like… most people, if you were talking about how something would have happened, would naturally lean towards “And then I would have done x, y and z” rather than “And then I did x, y and z…” but then, most people aren’t OJ, we guess.
Then there’s Charlie. Charlie is the person Simpson suggests persuaded him to go to Brown’s house and handed him the knife. There is no mention of Charlie in the actual case which makes all of this incredibly bizarre. Is Charlie imaginary? Very possibly. Is he a creation for the purpose of the narrative, to make events make more sense? It’s all unclear. The point of the interview, and book, is Simpson describing how he would have committed the murders - it’s negligible what the addition of “Charlie” adds to it.
Simpson recounts: “In the book, the hypothetical is that this guy Charlie shows up, and I don’t know why he’d been behind Nicole’s house, but he told me “You wouldn’t believe what’s going on over there”. I remember thinking “Well, whatever’s going on over there, it’s got to stop. Right?” We hooked up together - I’m kind of broad-stroking this - and we get in the Bronco and go over. In the hypothetical, [we park] in the alley. In the hypothetical, I put on a wool cap and gloves.”
It’s odd, isn’t it? “I remember,” is just strange in what’s purportedly a what-if scenario.
He continues, “I always kept a knife in that car for the crazies and stuff, because you can’t travel with a gun. And I remember Charlie saying, “You ain’t bringing that,” and I didn’t. Alright? But I believe he took it. In the book.”
Asked if the back gate Brown’s house was entered by was open, closed or broken, he replies “I don’t recall”.
“I go to the front, and I’m looking to see what’s going on. Nicole had candles up all the time, she really did, to keep her overheads down I think. And music was on, and while I was there, a guy shows up.”
This ‘guy’ is Ron Goldman, one of the victims. “I really didn’t recognise him. I may have seen him around but I really didn’t recognise him to be anyone, and in the mood I was in I started having words with him.”
Really blurring that hypothetical line there.
The official line of what Goldman was doing in the house was that Brown’s mother had left her sunglasses behind in the restaurant Goldman worked in, and he knew where Brown lived due to them being friends - she had lent him her car, for instance. Nothing has ever come out suggesting they were anything more than pals.
In the interview Simpson recounts, again supposedly hypothetically: “I don’t know if I believed it or didn’t believe it. It was pretty much immaterial, because I was more concerned about everything that was going on, you know, and fed up with it I guess. [We got into] a verbal fight. It got a little loud, and by that time Nicole had come out, and we started having words about who is this guy, why was he here, what’s going on.”
At this point, Simpson is told by the interviewer, Brown tells him to “get the fuck out of her house”.
“Yes, which I didn’t like” he says. His description of - hypothetical, imagined - events then becomes very odd. Just in case you weren’t already finding it all pretty odd.
“If you read the book you’ll see some things that happened in the two weeks leading up to this that were very very irritating. And I think Charlie had followed this guy in to make sure there was no problem, and has the knife, and as things got heated I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself, and this guy got into a karate thing (does martial-arts pose), and I said “well, do you think you could kick my ass?” and I remember I grabbed the knife - I do remember that portion - I grabbed the knife from Charlie, and to be honest, after that I don’t remember, except I’m standing there and there’s all kinds of stuff around, and blood and stuff, and… I hate to say this but (laughs uproariously).”
It’s not a time a lot of people would burst into laughter, it has to be said. But then, hysteria in grief is absolutely a thing. Imagining the scenario which would have taken place if you had been responsible for some murders you absolutely weren’t responsible for must be a very strange, quite distressing thing to do. After all, the only thing that is imaginary is the how - the end result is real and unchanged, and two people are dead.
“It’s hard,” says Simpson. “It’s hard not to make people think I’m a murderer.” Asked to expand on his remarks about “blood and stuff”, Simpson says:
“It’s hard for me to describe it entirely. I don’t think any two people could be murdered the way they were without everybody being covered in blood. Of course I think we’ve all seen the grisly pictures after, so yeah, I think everything was covered in blood.”
When asked about removing the famous glove, as mentioned repeatedly in the trial, Simpson’s answer is again deeply strange given the context of it as imaginary, hypothetical.. He says, “You know, I have no conscious memory of doing that, but obviously must have, because they found a glove there.”
Questioned as to whether he’d ever blacked out before this occasion where he thinks he probably would have blacked out if he was there (which he wasn’t), Simpson says: “Not to my knowledge. Of course if something like this would take place in anybody’s life, it’s something I think you’d automatically have trouble wrapping your mind around. It was horrible. It was absolutely horrible.”
Hypothetically, of course, one thing is clear: it would have been horrible, if he had done it, which he didn’t.