In an emotional televised speech, singer Michael Jackson Wednesday declared his innocence of child molestation allegations and admitted law enforcement authorities ordered a body search of him.
He also criticized the media for its coverage of the investigations.
Jackson spoke to a worldwide audience Wednesday via satellite from his Neverland Valley Ranch, reading from a TelePrompTer the tightly scripted statement. Although it only lasted around four minutes, it was direct and marked the first time Jackson publicly addressed the ongoing criminal investigation started by a 13-year-old boy who claimed he was sexually molested by the entertainer.
The singer also dropped his own bombshell when he confirmed he recently had been examined and photographed by investigators pursuant to a search warrant.
“I was forced to submit to a dehumanizing examination by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s and the Los Angeles Police Dept. that allowed them to view my body including my penis, my buttocks, my lower torso and thighs, and any other areas they wanted,” said Jackson, his voice at times cracking. “I was told I had no right to refuse the examination or photographs, and if I failed to cooperate with them, they would use that information (against me).”
The singer called the exam the “most humiliating ordeal of my life,” and said at its conclusion authorities still doubted him. “Even after experiencing the indignity of the search, the parties were still not satisfied,” Jackson said.
The examination, according to sources, occurred Monday at the ranch when Jackson physician Dr. David Forecast and attorney Johnnie Cochran were present.
Authorities ordered the search in an effort to corroborate statements made to investigators by the boy. Jackson has previously disclosed he has a skin disorder called vitiligo, and intimated during the telecast that many people are aware of his condition and thus would be able to make similar statements about his skin tone, despite never seeing him.
He called the search “a nightmare, a horrifying nightmare. But if this is what I have to endure to prove my innocence, my complete innocence, so be it.”
Slamming the media
Jackson also took the media to task for its reporting of the accusations.
“I am particularly upset by the handling of this mass matter by the incredible, terrible media,” Jackson said.
“At every opportunity the media has dissected and manipulated these allegations to reach their own conclusions,” Jackson said. “I ask all of you to wait and hear the truth before you label or condemn me. Don’t treat me like a criminal because I am innocent.”
Jackson’s statement marks the first salvo to be fired by the defense in an attempt to present an unfettered version of the facts of the case without questioning by reporters.
Cochran and attorney Howard Weitzman are expected to become highly visible Jackson foot soldiers in the next few days, putting forth their spin on the allegations. Cochran will make the rounds of the morning shows beginning today addressing both the criminal investigation and the civil lawsuit filed by the boy.
Jackson’s handlers have maintained the child-abuse allegations stemmed from an extortion attempt by the boy’s father, a prominent Beverly Hills dentist with ties to the film community, who tried to get Jackson to finance a production deal.
Larry Feldman, the boy’s attorney, who was vacationing in Colorado, chastised the singer for using his status to gain access to the world stage.
“I have a very compelling client who I would love to put on TV and have him look in the camera, just like Mr. Jackson did, and have him tell the facts that support his claim. But that’s not the appropriate thing to do,” Feldman said.
No criminal charges have been filed against Jackson.
Although the singer is scheduled to give a deposition in the civil case on Jan. 18, sources said Jackson attorneys have told Feldman that they will not allow it. The civil trial starts March 21.