NEW YORK – In an explosive telephone argument that led to her firing, publisher Judith Regan allegedly complained of a "Jewish cabal" against her in the book industry and stated that Jews "should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie."
A spokesman for Regan's former employer, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., told The Associated Press on Monday that the remarks were made during a conversation between Regan and HarperCollins attorney Mark Jackson, who took notes. At the time, the two were discussing the future of a controversial new novel about baseball star Mickey Mantle.
The spokesman, Andrew Butcher, released the comments in response to a threatened libel suit from Regan's legal representative, Hollywood attorney Bert Fields, who had called earlier reports of inappropriate remarks "completely untrue" and added that the publisher "didn't have an anti-Semitic bone in her body."
Since 1994, Regan had headed the ReganBooks imprint at News Corp.'s HarperCollins. She was fired Friday.
The allegations first emerged earlier Monday when The New York Times, citing two unnamed News Corp. officials, referred to unspecified anti-Semitic comments.
Regan, one of the book world's most successful and temperamental publishers, reportedly had a long history of tension with HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman even as Murdoch supported her. But last month, Murdoch canceled "If I Did It," her planned O.J. Simpson book and Fox television interview.
Simpson's book, said to have described how he theoretically would have committed the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, had been scheduled for release Nov. 30 following the airing of a two-part Simpson television interview. Its announcement was greeted with universal disgust and the project was called off despite Regan's vehement defense of what she called Simpson's "confession."
Regan's tirade last Friday, if true, marks the latest such outburst by a public figure. In July, Mel Gibson uttered anti-Semitic slurs after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker later apologized for his "vitriolic and harmful words," and stated, "Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite."
News Corp. and Fields offered widely different versions of Friday's phone call between Regan, in Los Angeles, and Jackson, based in New York.
Butcher said that Regan and Jackson were discussing an upcoming Regan book, Peter Golenbock's "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel," in which the author, imagining he is Mantle, confesses in detail to a life of sexual exploits, including a tryst with Marilyn Monroe.
With Mantle's family and fans of the late Yankee enraged, Regan and Jackson of HarperCollins were discussing the timing and content of the planned March release, according to Butcher. Regan became frustrated by what she believed was HarperCollins' lack of support, and lashed out.
She complained that Jackson, HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, HarperCollins Executive Editor David Hirshey and longtime literary agent Esther Newberg were a "Jewish cabal," Butcher said.
Butcher said she pleaded with Jackson: "Of all people, Jews should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie."
Fields, whose other clients have included Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, said Regan and Jackson had discussed some "records" Regan was trying to obtain. Fields acknowledged that Regan argued with Jackson, but denied she said anything anti-Semitic.
The future of the Mantle book is uncertain. Fields said HarperCollins had warned Regan that "7," the title referring to Mantle's uniform number, was "unpublishable." Butcher did not comment directly on Field's allegation, but told The Associated Press that the novel was currently "under review."
HarperCollins has been equally unclear about what will happen to ReganBooks, which produced a long series of racy best sellers, from Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star," to Jose Canseco's steroid tell-all, "Juiced."
Over the weekend, the publisher announced that longtime Regan editorial director Cal Morgan would head the imprint, but added, "Any future decisions relating to the imprint name or the publication of unpublished books will be addressed at the appropriate time."
Besides the Mantle novel, upcoming Regan publications include "Making War to Keep Peace," by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who died earlier this month; and "The Best Defense," by former Pentagon official Douglas Feith, a key supporter of the Iraq war.
News Corp. is the parent company of HarperCollins and FOXNews.com.