A News Corp. spokeswoman called the entire Regan suit “preposterous,” but said the company and its executives wouldn’t comment further.

Audit Readers, news organizations, especially newspaper organizations, to say nothing of a business watchdog, can’t behave like that. They must play it straight. If someone needs to be fired, you fire them. You don’t throw poison darts from the media brush. How does a circus like this cover other corporations?

I said a lot of tough things about Dow Jones, the soon-to-be-extinct Journal parent, but it didn’t stoop near that level. Neither, for that matter, does The New York Times Co. or The Washington Post Co.

As a Fox News commentator might put it, in a news organization, values matter. One day, business press readers are going to realize that.

It pays for Journal readers to review the history of the Regan case. For those who do not inhabit the dark and evil planet known as “Midtown,” Regan is the Long Island single mom (battered, by her account, by men in her life) who willed herself to become one of the most successful publishers ever, first at Simon & Schuster, then at News Corp.’s HarperCollins, having been recruited personally by Murdoch in 1994. Her list of hits includes the Zone Diet, Jenna Jamison, Howard Stern, and more serious work, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in book sales, which is a lot in publishing.

(Anyone interested in the Regan/News Corp. story must read New York magazine’s Vanessa Grigoriadis and Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff, two intrepid Frodos venturing into media Mordor.)

Was Regan a lightening rod? Yes. Erratic? Err, yes. Given to yelling, “I have the biggest cock in the building”? So we are told by Grigoriadis.

Still, in February 2006, according to the complaint, she and News Corp. director Tom Perkins, of Al Gore’s new firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, dined with Murdoch, who approved the idea of a Simpson book and suggested paying $1 million for it. Regan says Murdoch knew the book would be framed as a hypothetical confession. News Corp. officials have disputed that, but Murdoch has acknowledged approving the project.

A call from The Audit to Kleiner’s Menlo Park, California, office wasn’t returned.

Regan says she spoke frequently with Friedman, the Harper Collins CEO, who enthusiastically embraced the idea, even suggesting at a conference in Puerto Rico that the print run be increased.

Again, Friedman’s support for the project doesn’t appear to be in dispute. Regan cites a February 2007 Grigoriadis story in New York that said Friedman saw the project as a “gigantic mound of cash piled on her bottom line.”

Jackson, the in-house lawyer, negotiated the deal, according to Regan. Fox Broadcasting produced an accompanying televised O.J. interview. Regan says she wanted to wait, believing it to be in “bad taste” (I know, I know) to air it during the holidays, but a top Fox broadcast executive, Mike Darnell, told her: “The big guy (e.g. Murdoch) wants it now,” the complaint says.

So, this was not a rogue project.

The media storm broke with the leak of a clip from the Simpson interview, November 13, 2006.

Regan made an already bad situation worse three days later, when, during a Sirius radio show she hosted, she said she had decided to publish the Simpson book as a means of dealing with her own past abusive relationships, or something.

…because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth, confess their sins,” etc. etc.

Yes, it’s stupid.

Okay, the nation is in uproar. Fox News personalities man the ramparts against the cultural degradation spewing from, um, News Corp.’s publishing arm. You’d need a doctorate from MediaBistro and would have to eat at Michael’s every day for the rest of your life to figure out the internal politics of all this, but Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, et al. join what quickly blossoms into a category five doo-doo storm. Jim Pinkerton, a regular conservative panelist on Fox, lobs this:

Even among her fellow publishers at - at - Harper, she’s ‘slimy,’

Ick! Watch out for that flying crap, Jane Friedman!

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.