Publisher says bosses forced her to lie

Deposed publisher Judith Regan has filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit against former employer HarperCollins and parent company News Corp. alleging she was instructed to lie to federal investigators about former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, with whom she was having an affair.

The purpose of the smear campaign conducted against Regan, she alleges, was to advance the company’s political agenda, namely protecting Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential ambitions.

As alleged in the lengthy and long-promised suit, Regan also was advised by News Corp. executives not to produce relevant documents about Kerik, who was indicted this week on corruption charges. In an embarrassing incident, Giuliani recommended Kerik, who was much-admired in the aftermath of 9/11, to President Bush for secretary of Homeland security. The nomination was withdrawn following revelations about Kerik’s two mistresses and his use of his office for personal gain.

While the groundwork for discrediting her was laid in 2001, Regan alleges, the company found the opportunity to destroy her reputation in the wake of the publishing disaster of O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It.” The book, which was published under the ReganBooks imprint, was ultimately withdrawn from publication after a public uproar, and an interview with Simpson on Fox Network was cancelled.

Regan’s termination on Dec. 15 was widely reported. She was fired not for the Simpson mess, but allegedly for making anti-Semitic remarks during a telephone call with inhouse attorney Mark Jackson. In the suit, Regan claims she never made anti-Semitic remarks and that they were a trumped-up reason to fire her with two years left on her contract.

Controversial and confrontational, Regan has had success with a series of celebrity biographies. At HarperCollins, she was given her own imprint, ReganBooks, and a show on the Fox News Network.

The suit, which was filed by Brian Kerr of Dreier in state court in New York, seeks compensatory damages of $100 million and punitive damages.

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