March 12, 2018 / 5:29 PM / 3 months ago

O.J. Simpson gets tongues wagging, but 'American Idol' wins on TV

(This March 12 story corrects fourth paragraph to show Judith Regan was publisher, not author.)

O.J. Simpson reacts during his parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Centre in Lovelock, Nevada, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Bean/POOL

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A more than 10 year-old interview in which O.J. Simpson gave a hypothetical account of how he might have murdered his ex-wife fired up social media, but Americans proved more interested in watching the return of “American Idol,” television ratings data on Monday showed.

Some 10.3 million Americans watched the two-hour premiere of “American Idol” on ABC on Sunday night, compared with 4.4 million who tuned in to see rival Fox broadcast the 2006 tape in a show called “O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?,” according to Nielsen.

Fox broadcast for the first time a 2006 video with Simpson in which he talked about his marriage to Nicole Brown Simpson and gives a hypothetical account of events on the night in June 1994 when she and her friend Ron Goldman were murdered at her Los Angeles home.

Simpson was acquitted of double murder in 1995 after a 13-month trial in a case that continues to captivate Americans. The 2006 interview and a book published by Judith Regan based on it were pulled from publication at the time because of public outrage.

The Twitter hashtag #DidOJConfess was one of the top trending items on Sunday night but few posters on social media felt the video had changed their opinion about Simpson’s guilt or innocence. Under U.S. law, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.

FILE PHOTO - Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest speak on stage during the American Idol Grand Finale in Hollywood, California, U.S. on April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

Simpson’s attorney, Malcolm LaVergne said Simpson was “indifferent” about the broadcast.

“This 2006 ‘If I Did It’ concept by Regan offered to Simpson was despicably poor judgment and should be considered a plague on the houses of all involved, including the eventual publishers. The 2006 project was a cash grab. Nothing more,” LaVergne wrote on Twitter late Sunday.

Mainstream media was mostly critical of Fox for airing the interview, which was seen as an attempt to draw viewers away from ABC’s reboot of “American Idol” two years after the talent show ended on Fox after 15 seasons.

“With O.J. interview, Fox falls off the human decency wagon,” Entertainment Weekly wrote, calling Sunday’s two-hour special a rehash of material known or better handled by award winning TV documentaries and mini-series in 2016.

FILE PHOTO - Confetti falls down during the conclusion of the American Idol Grand Finale in Hollywood, California, U.S. on April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

Vanity Fair asked if “The Lost Confession?” was “Genius or Gross?” and the New York Times concluded that while the TV program was unpleasant and offered little in the way of closure, “It’s a piece of broadcasting and cultural history, which supplements all the other O.J. Simpson coverage.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bill Trott

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