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News Corp. Denies Chief Killed Film

September 15, 1998| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

News Corp. denied Monday that Chairman Rupert Murdoch personally pulled the plug on a TV movie project about the sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The movie was to be based on the 1994 book "Strange Justice," written by then-Wall Street Journal reporters Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson. Mayer now writes for the New Yorker and Abramson writes for the New York Times.

News Corp. spokesman James Platt said the decision about the movie was made for "purely commercial reasons" by executives at Fox Television Studios Inc., a production division that is part of News Corp.'s vast TV operation.

"Mr. Murdoch never read the book, and he has never met Justice Thomas," Platt said.

The book asserts that Anita Hill told the truth in Senate hearings on Thomas' Supreme Court nomination when she alleged sexual improprieties by Thomas.

People close to the project told the New York Times that Murdoch scrapped the project after reading the book. Thomas is a conservative. Murdoch has a history of supporting conservative politicians.

"I was told that Fox was very excited about the script," Jacob Epstein, the project's screenwriter, told the paper. "Then I learned two weeks ago that Mr. Murdoch had asked for a copy of the book, 'Strange Justice,' to read over the weekend, and on Monday the project was dead."

The New York Times quoted News Corp. President Peter Chernin as saying the company expected a "reasonably comedic" script, but that it turned out to be not funny.

"The script came in and they did not like it. It was passed on by the network," Chernin said.

The Times story also said Murdoch rival Ted Turner stalled a TV production of the book for the TNT cable network two years ago when the Supreme Court was considering a key cable regulation case. Turner's representatives have denied that.

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