Roy Firestone responds to criticism he's receiving for his O.J. Simpson interview
Firestone said that his critics are forgetting about the context of the interview
In 1992, Roy Firestone interviewed O.J. Simpson on ESPN's Sports Look. Nearly 25 years later, Firestone has come under fire for his handling of that interview.
During Part 2 of ESPN's O.J.: Made in America documentary, a clip from that interview aired, showing Firestone asking Simpson about an incident in 1988 when Simpson beat his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
The details from the incident, which the Los Angeles Times reported, are unpleasant:
During a fight after a New Year's Eve party at the house, Simpson had punched and kicked his wife and pulled her hair and screamed, "I'll kill you!" according to the documents. He had slapped her so hard, one police report said, that a handprint was left on her neck.
The Times article continues, reporting that while prosecutors requested Simpson, after pleading no contest, serve a month in jail and undergo "an intensive yearlong treatment program for men who batter their wives," he instead received no jail time and was "allowed to pick his own psychiatrist and receive counseling over the phone."
Now, here's what was said during that interview with Firestone, as told by Yahoo Sports:
"Not to dredge it up again, but more or less, talk about how things can get distorted to such a point that you are portrayed as a bad guy. New Year's Eve, you had too much to drink ..." Firestone said, with Simpson interrupting him to say, "My wife and I have been together for 12 years and when I look at it, it really wasn't that big of a fight. But because of it being New Year's Eve, because it's 3 o'clock in the morning, just finished a big party. It got a little loud", finishing the lie with a laugh.
And then Firestone ramped up the idolatry: "Here's my point. The point I'm making, Juice ... it got to such a point that you were portrayed in the press for a while there like a wife beater!" Simpson says that bothered him and bothered his family, that no one was hurt and it was "no big deal."
After Part 2 aired, the backlash hit Firestone:
That Roy Firestone interview is so horribly embarrassing. #ojmadeınamerica— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 15, 2016
@karenehowell Roy Firestone telling O.J., "the media portrayed you as a wife beater?!"was the worst line in a truly horrible interview.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) June 15, 2016
On Thursday, Firestone responded to the criticism. Speaking with Doug Gottlieb in a lengthy interview, which you can watch at the top of this page, Firestone issued his defense.
Here's a sampling:
"People are forgetting something really important. There was no context to this clip on the show. This interview was done two years plus before the murders. There was an allegation, but no criminal charges were filed at the time I was doing the interview and I don't believe there were any criminal charges filed. ... So I was the only person to even bring up the subject of domestic violence.
"Now, short of calling a man a liar and having fingerprints or evidence or whatever you want, police charges, which there were none, if a person denies it and he does it somewhat jovially, and my exchange with him is somewhat jovial, in context -- let me underscore that word -- in context of the times, not 24 years later, in 1992, and to be judged as somehow an enabler or someone who is chummy with a double murderer, make no mistake, I definitely believe he savagely murdered two people, is so unfair and is so ridiculous."
Firestone added that he wished he had been given a chance to put that interview into context and perspective. He also pointed out that he's not "proud of the joviality that comes across of the interview, it really makes me squirm and it disgusts me."
He did, however, say the times were different when he interviewed Simpson -- meaning he thinks the general attitude toward Simpson and domestic violence were different than they are today. As Yahoo Sports pointed out, Firestone also defended his interview a month ago on Twitter:
ESPN is showing my interview w/ OJ TWO years BEFORE the murder.I asked him about his DV rumor, he denied it. I wish I knew what would happen— Roy Firestone (@RoyFirestone) May 12, 2016
No one feels dirtier in the OJ interviews than me. I asked him about his DV rumor 2 years b4 the murders.He denied it. Wish I knew future.— Roy Firestone (@RoyFirestone) May 12, 2016
You can watch the Firestone's interview with Gottlieb above. And ESPN's entire documentary on Simpson is available for streaming on WatchESPN.
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