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O.J. Simpson, shown in July 2000, was to discuss the slayings of his former wife and her friend on Fox. ((Richard Drew-file photo/Associated Press))

The owner of Fox television and publisher HarperCollins has cancelled a TV special and book in which O.J. Simpson speaks about the killing of his ex-wife and her friend, it was announced Monday.

"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."

The announcement came in response to a storm of controversy surrounding the scheduled release of the book If I Did It, in which Simpson writes how, hypothetically, he could have murdered his ex-wife and Goldman.

Earlier Monday, nine Fox television affiliates in the U.S. said they would not air a two-part special in which the former football star and actorspeaks about the killings.

Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995 but was later found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Goldman family. He has yet to pay the $33.5 million US judgment in the case and continues to fight legal battles over the settlement.

Industry trade publication Broadcasting & Cable had also editorialized against the show Monday, saying "Fox should cancel this evil sweeps stunt."

The TV special — entitled If I Did It, Here's How It Happened — was to air during the November ratings sweeps and conclude a day before the scheduled launch of the book on Nov. 30. A number of smaller retailers in both Canada and the U.S. had already said they would not carry the book on their shelves.

Publisher defends her decision

HarperCollins imprint ReganBooks, known for controversial books including baseball player Jose Canseco's steroid-confessional Juiced, was to publish the book. ReganBooks head Judith Regan defended the publication of the book, saying she considered it Simpson's "confession."

Regan said it was Simpson's idea to write the book,and said the rights fee was paid through a third party, which assured her all the proceeds would go to his children.

But the families of Goldman and Brown were outraged at the publisher for indulging Simpson and profiting from their loss.

"He destroyed my son and took from my family Ron's future and life. And for that I'll hate him always and find him despicable," Fred Goldman told ABC last week.

Pre-sales of the book last weekend had been strong but not frenzied. The book cracked the top 20 on Amazon.combut had fallen to No. 51 by the time of the announcement.

With files from the Associated Press