'The People v. O.J. Simpson,' Episode 2: Our Fact-Checking Recap - Rolling Stone
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‘The People v. O.J. Simpson,’ Episode 2: Our Fact-Checking Recap

‘American Crime Story’ takes on the white Bronco chase — how well did they do?

Episode 2; People; OJ Simpson; CubaEpisode 2; People; OJ Simpson; Cuba

Cuba Gooding Jr. in 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.'

Ray Mickshaw/FX

Until the summer of 1994, O.J. Simpson was best known for his speed on the field — which is ironic, given how the run he would ultimately become most famous for wasn’t particularly fast at all. The second installment of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story revisits the scandal’s most iconic moment: The Juice in that white Ford Bronco, driving down the freeway with life-long friend Al Cowlings (played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner) at the wheel, a revolver held to his head in the back seat, and news copters and the cops in hot pursuit. The episode ends with Simpson’s surrender to a swarm of police at his home, with everyone nervous that he might just pull that trigger and end it all. The script sticks close to its source material, New Yorker writer Jeffery Toobin’s 1996 book The Run of His Life, but like always, they took a little dramatic license. Check out these five details from Episode Two, fact-checked and rated on a one-to-five “Gloves” scale for accuracy.

The suicide note
As O.J. and A.C. went on the run, Robert Kardashian took the podium at the defense’s June 17th press conference to read what seemed to be a suicide note from Orenthal James Simpson. “First, everyone understand I had nothing to do with Nicole’s murder,” Kardashian read. But what he had written was much more ambiguous: “First everyone understand nothing to do with Nicole’s murder.” The opening seemed to be written under extreme duress — that, or Simpson was nearly illiterate. So Kardashian edited the note as he went along, potentially changing its meaning and certainly obfuscating the man’s desperation.

It was actually signed, as the series acknowledges, with a morbid smiley face for the “O” in his name. But the show plays into a misconception: Robert Shapiro suggested during the press conference that the letter had been written that day, and Kardashian doesn’t correct that. In the first episode, the attorney discovers O.J. penning both a will and his final words just hours before he goes on the run. In reality, the note was dated June 15th, 1994 — two days earlier, a fact that Kardashian also edited out. As Toobin points out in his book, if Kardashian admitted that his friend had written this some time before, he might have also let on that Simpson was considering breaking his agreement to surrender. “By leaving out the date, Kardashian avoided uncomfortable questions about his own role in O.J.’s disappearance.”

As far as a young Kim spelling her last name and the rest of the Kardashian children chanting it to the TV, one can only hope this is true. (3/5 Gloves)

Domino’s Pizza had its best day ever
The chase lasted roughly two hours — cops started pursuit at about 6pm and he reached his home around 8pm. In the meantime, Los Angeles came to a halt. Not only was the 405 shut down—”The backup on Sepulveda must be unbelievable,” one D.A. staffer notes on the show — but people were rapt, unable to take their eyes off the white car. There’s a brief scene in a chain pizza restaurant in which workers are scrambling to fill dozens of orders and are running out of cheese, a seemingly odd detail to include in a show about a high-profile murder. But in fact, the day of the chase was Domino’s best day to date. “We benefited from the fact that it was essentially ‘dinner time’ on the West Coast and late evening on the East Coast,” the franchise’s VP Tim McIntyre told Business Insider. “People were so enthralled by the bizarre nature of what was happening, they didn’t want to miss a moment.” Bad day for the Juice, great day for pizza. (5/5 Gloves)

A.C.’s interaction with the 911 dispatchers
Nearly an hour after the LAPD’s unsuccessful confrontation with the occupants of the Bronco — a strange scene that happened just before 6pm on Interstate 5 — O.J. decided he wants the chase to end. One of the most believable lines to come out of Malcolm-Jamal Warner’s mouth is when a 911 dispatcher asks if, other than Simpson’s mental state, everything is alright. “What kind of stupid-ass question is that!?” he shouts into the phone. “Everything is terrible!”

While the scene adds some drama to the chase, A.C.’s demeanor on that call seems to have been somewhat calmer, probably a smarter choice for a man driving a suicidal sports star through L.A.’s empty freeways. “Everything right now is okay, Officer,” Toobin writes that Cowlings told the cops. “Everything is okay. He wants me to get him to his mom, He wants me to get him to his house.” It wasn’t until he was passed off to another dispatcher that he lost his temper, shouting his famous line, “This is A.C.! You know who this is, God dammit!” (2/5 Gloves)

Did Robert Kardashian convince him to come inside?
When O.J. and A.C. arrived at the house around 8pm on that day in 1994, it took an LAPD negotiator nearly an hour to get Simpson to promise he wouldn’t hurt anyone other than himself, and to convince him that his mother was inside. (On both the show and during the actual events, she was actually at a local hospital, where she’d been taken for heart palpitations.) While the details of this conversation made it into the show, it’s Robert Kardashian, not a negotiator, who reached O.J.; it takes just a few minutes to get him out of the car, leaving the gun but clutching some framed photos of his family. (2/5 Gloves)

The diversity of the people watching at the scene
The FX production goes out of its way to make the crowds surrounding O.J.’s Brentwood home seem like a racially mixed cross-section of Los Angeles: black, white, Hispanic. But as Toobin points out in his book, while there was a somewhat diverse crowd in his neighborhood, they weren’t all necessarily there to cheer him on. “Reporters broadcasting live from Sunset [Boulevard] found a stark racial division,” Toobin writes. “The whites, a minority of the revelers, were curiosity seekers — ‘looky loos,’ per the LAPD — who had come simply to experience the bizarre scene. The African-Americans, on the other hand, had mostly come to show solidarity, and their chants and shouts made their feelings clear.” A nice touch by the network here, but a little disingenuous when it comes to the reality of mid-1990s L.A. The police force had a long and disturbing history with the African American population there, and they weren’t going to watch one of their own go down — one woman interviewed on camera called for “the unification of the black race,” and saw supporting Simpson as the way to do it. (1/5 Gloves)

Previously: Episode 1

In This Article: Ryan Murphy


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