Searching for the real killers

O.J. Simpson smiles creepily on his comeback TV tour, hoping to win back our hearts -- and pin a little guilt on his NBC hosts.

Published July 25, 2000 8:00PM (EDT)

I have $50.31 on me right now and I'm willing to put it up as a reward to find the "real killers" of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

O.J. Simpson went on the "Today" show Tuesday to hype his Internet appearance Thursday at, where, for $9.95, he'll answer any question from the public, as long as it's not about his kids.

Simpson said he's asked the sponsoring company to donate his profits to three charities. But "Today" host Katie Couric said those charities -- including the Innocence Project (which uses DNA evidence to spring the wrongly convicted) and a summer camp for kids with cancer that Simpson helped found -- were reluctant to accept the donations. That's OK, Simpson shrugged, if they don't want it, some charity will be happy to take it.

Simpson's line is that the American people just haven't heard his story, and that when we do, we'll believe he's innocent. But who doesn't know O.J.'s version of events? That he was framed by the Los Angeles Police Department and various friends of Nicole, especially Faye Resnick, who lied at his trial, and that his wife and Goldman were killed by denizens of the shadowy, drug-infested nightlife world he says they inhabited.

Why anyone would pay $9.95 to hear him repeat this stuff is beyond me. They could contribute it to my reward fund instead.

Couric read from Simpson's famous post-verdict statement: "When things have settled down a bit I will pursue as my primary goal in life the killer or killers who slaughtered Nicole and Mr. Goldman. They are out there somewhere. Whatever it takes to identify them and bring them in, I will provide somehow." She asked him with a straight face but barely masked hostility how the search was going.

The years have gone by and not a single clue has turned up, despite Simpson's no-doubt constant search for the -- is that them over there?! -- real killers. He told Couric that some new information came in just last week, but he couldn't discuss it.

When Couric suggested that most Americans think his supposed search for the real killers is a joke, Simpson made a Freudian slip. That's why we watch him now, isn't it? We're waiting for him to mess up, to accidentally admit that he did it, or just to break down, "Perry Mason" style, and tearfully shriek a confession.

"If you think I'm innoc ... guilty," he said, "why isn't NBC, you, putting up a reward? You would like to find who did this if I didn't do it, wouldn't you? You have more money than I." He delivered his response in that calm, sleepy-eyed, half-smiling manner he's developed since his trial, which has turned him into a truly creepy guy, guilty or no. "Why wouldn't you want to donate something to a reward to find these killers? And if you think I did it, you'll never lose your money. You can't lose a dime."

Here's what I think: I think O.J.'s canned answer is insultingly glib. NBC is not in the law enforcement business, and its unwillingness to put up reward money to find mythical "real killers" proves nothing. (Although its willingness to have him on the "Today" show proves the network is not above using Simpson's shock value to juice its ratings.) I think a guy who didn't do it wouldn't say things like "You would like to find who did this if I didn't do it, wouldn't you?" I think NBC did find the real killer, when it booked O.J. Simpson to sit in that big armchair and talk to Katie Couric.

I also think O.J.'s a pretty smart guy, and I think he knows what he's doing. He knows that television is the magic elixir, the great American "everything's OK" machine. He knows there's a reasonable chance that if he puts his face on television every once in a while -- not too often -- people will slowly but surely come to like him again, to feel like they know him and understand him, maybe even, eventually, love him. Maybe, little by little, he'll go from being that guy who whacked his ex-wife and got away with it to being that serious, earnest, gracefully aging but still handsome fellow with the pained expression, the one who always has to defend himself against people who just won't let the past die. He's on TV. He seems so nice. Let's get his autograph.

And somehow the real killers will escape capture. I just know it. Those bums.

At least my $50.31 is safe.

By Gary Kaufman

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