Only Judith Regan could draw so many famous men into one court filing.
In a $100 million defamation suit filed in New York Tuesday, the firebrand former publisher sues, censures or cites Rudy Giuliani, Rupert Murdoch, Mickey Mantle, Bill O'Reilly, O.J. Simpson, Roger Ailes and Bernard Kerik.
Regan accuses her former employer, News Corp., of engineering a campaign of dirty tricks against her that allegedly involved leaking lies that she was openly anti-Semitic, disgracing and embarrassing her when she tried to publish O.J. Simpson's fictionalized account of the murder of his wife and her friend, and suggesting she lie about her affair with a married New York City police commissioner to protect former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential dreams.
In a 72-page complaint, Regan's attorneys claim that she was the victim of a "deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by one of the world's largest media conglomerates for the sole purpose of destroying her credibility and reputation.
"This smear campaign was necessary to advance News Corp.'s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions," read the court filing.
The complaint charges that one unnamed senior News Corp. executive "counseled Regan to lie and withhold information from investigators" about her acknowledged affair with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Another unnamed News Corp. executive "advised Regan not to produce clearly relevant documents in connection with a governmental investigation of Kerik,'' according to the complaint. Regan also charges that she was wrongfully terminated.
Kerik attorney, Ken Breen, a former federal prosecutor, declined to respond to the complaint.
"Her lawsuit is preposterous. That's all we're saying for now,'' News Corp. publicist Howard Rubenstein told the ABC News' Law & Justice Unit.
"I think that's a gossip column story, and the last thing in the world you want to do when you're running for president is respond to gossip column type stories," Giuliani said in response to reporters' questions Wednesday.
It was unclear from court papers whether Regan actually deceived or withheld information from investigators, a potential federal felony. A publicist for Regan declined comment, saying the filing "speaks for itself."
A source close to Regan who did not want to be identified said the charges are "all backed up by hard evidence." The source denied that the complaint's filing was timed to coincide with a week in which Simpson was in court in Las Vegas and Kerik was indicted in New York while Giuliani continued his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Rise and Fall
It was Giuliani's unwavering support of Kerik, a former Bronx beat cop, that propelled him so swiftly from a driver on the mayoral police detail to city corrections commissioner, police chief and eventually to President Bush's nominee to direct Homeland Security.
That nomination went down in flames and deeply embarrassed both Bush and Giuliani when allegations surfaced that Kerik had employed an undocumented immigrant. Kerik withdrew himself from consideration almost immediately. This week he pleaded not guilty to 16 federal counts of corruption and was released on $500,000 bail.
Regan's complaint, which was posted on the Web site TheSmokingGun.com, even references an unrelated and since-settled sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly. The often brash cable television personality is quoted characterizing News Corp. as a vicious media juggernaut whose influence stretches into the Oval Office.
"If you cross Fox News Channel,'' O'Reilly is quoted as saying, "it's not just me, it's [Fox president] Roger Ailes who will go after you. … Ailes knows very powerful people, and this goes all the way to the top … top of the country."
In vivid language in court filings, Regan and her lawyers build a case for her enormous financial success and the subsequent damage to that reputation.
"Regan is a self-made, hardworking, dedicated, single mother who supported herself from the age of 14, worked her way through school, and built (against all odds) one of the most successful, diverse, provocative and colorful publishing imprints in history," the complaint states.
She quotes LA Weekly magazine as calling her "the world's most successful publisher'' and goes on to detail a bullet-pointed page worth of best-sellers that range from Gregory MacGuire's "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" and "Son of a Witch" to shock jock Howard Stern's "Private Parts."
'The Big Guy' Wants It Now
By page 13 of the complaint, Regan takes on Murdoch directly, claiming he agreed with her that a confession from O.J. Simpson, even a fictionalized one, "would not only be a remarkable, historic event but would also be a commercial success." The complaint claims that over dinner with Regan, Murdoch offered $1 million for the book and television special.
The controversial project was rolled out in mid-November 2006, with a few, well-chosen sound bites from the television interview. Regan claims in the complaint that she told Mike Darnell, executive vice president of alternative programming at Fox Broadcasting, that she "wanted to [broadcast the Simpson interview] in February, because it was in bad taste to air it during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
"However, Darnell said that 'the big guy' (i.e, Murdoch) wants it now,'' during the crucial November sweeps period.
But public and media backlash that resulted from prepublicity for the interview was severe and immediate.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz told ABC News at the time, "What has appalled people about this latest O.J. spectacle is that Rupert Murdoch is paying a man who most of the country believes to be a murderer to come on the air and pretend that he's making a confession while clinging to the fictional fig leaf that he's innocent."
Murdoch soon canceled the entire project, and personally apologized to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, a move thoroughly uncharacteristic of the hard-charging media baron.
But before the public backlash, Regan and her attorneys charge, the entire upper management at book publisher HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., and at News Corp. itself was fully supportive of the Regan/Simpson project.
The idea for the book project was hatched by a club promoter named Raffles Van Exel, who took it to Simpson's oldest daughter, Arnell Simpson, according to a deposition taken in Florida this year and first reported by ABC News.
Once the project was canceled, Simpson again denied he committed the murders but acknowledged to The Associated Press that he did the book for the money, "blood money,'' as he called it.
"It's all blood money and, unfortunately, I had to join the jackals,'' Simpson told the AP's Linda Deutsch, referring to authors of books about him. "It helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead."
The controversy only fueled a long-simmering feud between Regan and HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman.
'Pornographic' Mickey Mantle Novel
Regan goes on the claim that News Corp. "created a story about [Regan] being responsible for publishing a 'pornographic' novel about late [New York Yankees baseball legend] Mickey Mantle … to destroy Regan's credibility, reputation and character" after the Simpson debacle.
"Specifically, Friedman and others at HarperCollins falsely described the Mantle book (both internally and externally) as 'porn,' 'exploitative' and 'vile,'" according to the court papers. "They even claimed that the book somehow disgraced the legacy of Mickey Mantle, even though he was a self-confessed alcoholic and was widely known as verbally abusive and a womanizer.''
Regan goes on to describe being fired the week before Christmas last year, as fellow News Corp. employees headed to the office Christmas party.
Three days later, a News Corp. executive provided notes to The New York Times that he said were taken by a top HarperCollins lawyer during a recent conversation with Regan. In that phone conversation, the attorney Mark Jackson quotes Regan as saying that "of all people, the Jews should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie." The Times reported Dec. 18, 2006 that the notes were provided by Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president at News Corp.
The paper said the notes contend that Regan went on to say that the literary agent Esther Newberg; HarperCollins Executive Editor David Hirshey; HarperCollins's President, Jane Friedman and Mr. Jackson "constitute a Jewish cabal against her."
The following week, three days before Christmas, Regan attorney Bert Fields released a statement saying that a witness had emerged to dispute those allegations. Fields said Regan's temporary assistant, Carmen del Toro, had called the office to say she listened in on the call in question and backed Regan's claim that she never used the phrase "Jewish cabal" only "cabal."
Still, despite a sometimes gleeful and seemingly congenital ability to pick big public fights, Regan said in a recent article in Harper's Bazaar that in August she realized she'd had enough of the limelight, during, of all things, an impromptu performance she gave of the classic ballad "My Way,'' in a karaoke bar in Chinatown.
Intrigued, she later recorded the song and contacted it's author, songwriter Paul Anka.
"I asked him how the song came to be,'' she told the magazine. "He and Frank Sinatra had been having dinner one night in 1968, and he had confided in [Anka] that he was at the end, and he just didn't want to do it anymore. He was giving up. That night Anka wrote the lyrics to "My Way" and gave it to Sinatra the next day. It became Sinatra's signature and one of the most recorded songs in history.
The record shows
I took the blows
And did it my way
"People kept saying to me, 'Like a phoenix you will rise again.' Rise to what? They took their punches, but they never knocked me down. I've tried with all my strength to stand tall and face it all. And now, I don't want it anymore. I want less. I want my life to get smaller, not bigger,'' she said, according to Harper's Bazaar. "That is my way."