Regan Boasted of Mezuzah Vandalism

Another bizarre twist to an already twisted story. The woman who wanted to publish O.J.'s book, Judith Regan, allegedly "boasted of removing the scrolls from her neighbors' mezuzas and replacing them with torn pieces from dollar bills."

This blogger has learned that when asked about this boast, she reportedly began to reply, "If I did it..." Here is the story from the NY Times business pages.

Previous Incident Reported Involving a Fired Publisher

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 - Judith Regan, the publisher who was fired last week by HarperCollins in the wake of what executives called anti-Semitic remarks, was investigated and reprimanded three years ago for making an anti-Semitic remark at work, two top executives at HarperCollins have said.

According to the executives and another person involved in the incident, Ms. Regan was investigated in the spring of 2003 after an editor complained that she had boasted of removing the scrolls from her neighbors' mezuzas and replacing them with torn pieces from dollar bills.

A mezuza is a small slender case containing a scroll inscribed with a prayer that many Jewish families place beside their front doors.

The two executives said the company's investigation had corroborated the employee's account and Ms. Regan was reprimanded at the time.

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Erin Crum, declined to confirm the account. "We do not comment on personnel issues," she said.

A lawyer for Ms. Regan, Bert Fields, denied that she had made the remark. The story, he said, stemmed from testimony given by a witness during Ms. Regan's divorce from Robert Kleinschmidt but she had had nothing to do with the incident.

Mr. Fields said Ms. Regan had not been investigated or reprimanded over an anti-Semitic remark at work.

The furor over Ms. Regan began last month after the News Corporation, the parent company of HarperCollins Publishers, canceled a planned book and television special featuring O. J. Simpson discussing how he hypothetically might have killed his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman.

Last week, Ms. Regan was abruptly fired after a heated telephone conversation with Mark Jackson, a lawyer for HarperCollins, in which she reportedly made anti-Semitic remarks.

On Monday, Mr. Fields promised to sue HarperCollins for breach of contract. "She would never issue any anti-Semitic remark, and she didn't," Mr. Fields said at the time. "It's an outrageous lie to cover the fact that they have no possible basis for terminating Judith."

Mr. Fields acknowledged last week that during the phone conversation, Ms. Regan drew attention to the fact that her boss and others involved in the aborted O. J. Simpson project were Jewish.

Still, several people who worked with Ms. Regan, none of whom would speak for attribution because they feared being sued or subpoenaed, questioned whether she was anti-Semitic. They said her personal style was frequently abusive, but that she offended everyone equally.

"She was an equal opportunity insulter of everyone," said one editor, who worked for ReganBooks for three years. "I did not think of her as a generalized racist."

But the two HarperCollins executives said that many employee complaints had been filed against Ms. Regan, including the one that resulted in a reprimand.

In that incident, an editor at ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, said that in early May 2003 she was in Ms. Regan's office when the publisher made the remark that "she and her former husband would go around their apartment building, changing mezuzas with bits of dollar bills," according to an individual involved in the investigation, whose account was confirmed by the two executives.

The editor immediately reported the incident to Greg Giangrande, an executive in the human resources department, who started an inquiry that led to Ms. Regan's reprimand.

The incident was not the first time that the editor had complained about ethnic slurs made by her boss, Ms. Regan, the two executives at HarperCollins said. In addition, two former employees said they had received cash settlements as part of a negotiated deal to leave in the wake of their complaints against Ms. Regan. They and others questioned why HarperCollins had tolerated the publisher's behavior.

Sharon Waxman reported from Los Angeles and Julie Bosman from New York.


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