Monday, December 18, 2006


You probably know that Judith Regan lost her publishing imprint on Friday after being fired. Today, in the New York Sun, Robert Asahina -- who brought Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho to Simon & Schuster when he was a book editor back in the early '90s (and who also acquired books by William Bennett, Allan Bloom, and Bill O'Reilly) -- tells us that the whole thing is just East Coast snobbishness and political correctness run amok:

It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ms. Regan was fired not for her legendarily difficult personality -- and not, or not just, because of her longstanding rivalry with [HarperCollins CEO Jane] Friedman -- but for her repeated affronts to the bland conformity of New York publishing....

Too frequently, book publishers today are prisoners of received opinion, all too eager to act as gatekeepers rather than as promoters of free speech. Would Ms. Regan be considered even remotely controversial if she had published, say, Noam Chomsky, Al Franken, and Karen Finley? By this measure, Ms. Regan's chief sin seems to have been that her authors sold millions of books to exactly the kind of readers that New York publishers wish weren't their customers.

The truth is apparently, er, a bit more complicated:

Rupert Murdoch personally ordered the dismissal of Judith Regan, the publisher of a widely criticized O. J. Simpson book, after he heard reports of a heated conversation Ms. Regan had with a company lawyer on Friday that included comments that were deemed anti-Semitic, according to two people familiar with the News Corporation's account of the firing.

Mark Jackson, a lawyer with HarperCollins, a division of the News Corporation that includes Ms. Regan's imprint, reported the alleged comments from a phone conversation with Ms. Regan to Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’s president and chief executive.

... Ms. Regan’s alleged comments, which came in the midst of a tense conversation in which she berated Mr. Jackson, were directed at him and Ms. Friedman, who are Jewish, as well as toward other Jews, one of the sources said.

Oh, that P.C. fascist Rupert Murdoch -- always getting hypersensitive about Jews!


Ms. Regan first responded to public opprobrium over the Simpson project with an unhinged eight-page defense of her interview. And then, after the plug was pulled on Nov. 21, she failed to accept the decision. (When Mr. Murdoch says something is dead, put away the paddles and pull up the hearse.)

Instead she railed against HarperCollins, the News Corporation book division that owns her ReganBooks imprint, while taping her Sirius Satellite Radio show, according to Ron Hogan, an editor at GalleyCat, which is a book-oriented blog. And finally, she made offensive remarks in a phone call to one of the company’s lawyers on Friday, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.

"I think someone looked a little bit down the road and saw train wrecks everywhere," said a HarperCollins executive who declined attribution because the case might end up in litigation.

She started attacking her boss in public and she was fired. How P.C.! How East Coast snobbish!

Did that executive say "train wrecks"? Perhaps he/she was referring to matters such as this:

Judith Regan and executives from HarperCollins and News Corp. may be deposed as part of a lawsuit that could be filed this week by the family of murder victim Ron Goldman.

One attorney described it as an attempt to "get to the bottom" of the internal decision-making process surrounding the aborted publication of "If I Did It," O.J. Simpson's hypothetical tell-all on how he would have killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Goldman....

The lawsuit would likely be based on the legal premise of "fraudulent transfer," which in this case would contend that News Corp. executives knowingly conspired to assist Simpson in subverting a civil judgment against him....

Firing someone who spearheaded a project that's resulted in a possibly expensive and highly public, highly embarrassing lawsuit -- only a liberal would do that!

Yup, I guess Asahina's right.


(GalleyCat, as noted above, has wall-to-wall coverage of all this. You can read Regan's "uninged eight-page defense of her interview" here, here, or here. And regarding Asahina's "Noam Chomsky, Al Franken, and Karen Finley" remark, the good Roger Ailes says, "Regan published books by Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, and Joe Trippi. Isn't that the exact same thing?")


Under ordinary circumstances, Asahina's article would set the terms of the debate -- all other inconvenient facts would be banished from memory and there'd be hand-wringing in the media about "Judith Regan: victim of political correctness?" What's different in this case is that she offended Rupert Murdoch, whose media outlets tend to be the principal carriers of P.C.-bashing, liberal-bashing memes. So I'm not sure how this will play out. The fact that Regan published Rush Limbaugh's two bestsellers makes me suspect that the "Chardonnay-swillers got her fired" version of the story could get traction.


UPDATE: From the subscription-only Publishers Lunch:

While the last month's worth of stories have always said how financially successful Regan has been as a publisher, none of those characterizations have noted that 2006 has been a disappointing year for the unit's frontlist, with books like Kimora Lee Simmons' FABULOSITY, Jim McGreevey's CONFESSION, Rain Pryor's JOKES MY FATHER NEVER TAUGHT ME and Kevin Week's Whitey Bulger book a far cry from last year's JUICED [by Jose Canseco], Scott Peterson trio and other Regan hits.

So they're firing her for insulting the boss, embroiling the company in a laswsuit, insulting Jews, and not making enough money. Only a liberal would think that way!

No comments: