IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'60 Minutes' not Jackson's finest hour

WashPost: King of Pop would be better off singing, not talking
In his first interview since being charged with child molestation, Michael Jackson tells CBS journalist Ed Bradley that he is innocent, but insists there is nothing wrong in sleeping with children.CBS / 60 Minutes via Reuters
/ Source: a href="" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true">The Washington Post</a

Watching Michael Jackson quietly roast on the "60 Minutes" hot seat last night, you had to wonder when the guy would scrap his current public relations campaign -- which, for one ill-advised evening, required him to speak -- and try something that might actually help his cause.

Like singing and dancing. If Jackson has any sense left in that surgically transformed head of his, in the months leading up to his trial on child molestation charges he'll talk less and moonwalk more. Because talking won't really help -- if his performance last night is any indication.

Whatever the merit of the allegations against him, the guy is just too peculiar, too creepily fragile and too egomaniacal to effectively defend himself in person.

Throughout the interview, taped in a Los Angeles hotel room on Christmas Day, Jackson spoke haltingly and in a voice barely above a whisper, his face only slightly more expressive than a windowpane. His lips were bright red and he sported a Listerine-blue shirt with spangles and military stripes on the shoulder -- imagine what Liberace would have worn on "Hee-Haw" and you're close. Twice he tried to end the interview early, complaining of pain caused by an alleged manhandling by the Santa Barbara police officers who booked and fingerprinted him.

"What time is it?" he asked, looking ready to take off. " 'Cause I'm hurting. You know what? I'm, I'm hurting. I have to go pretty soon."

About the charges against him, Jackson mostly rehashed the flat denials already issued by his attorney, Mark Geragos, who did not appear to be present during the interview but whose comments were offered on the program when he apparently thought his client was venturing into legally sensitive territory. In one squirm-worthy segment, Jackson acknowledged he'd shared his bedroom with the boy he's alleged to have molested, and he blithely maintained that he saw nothing strange about it. When correspondent Ed Bradley asked if Jackson could understand how odd his kiddie slumber parties appeared to the public -- particularly given the millions he spent a decade ago to end a civil case brought by another minor -- he said no.

"People think sex. They're thinking sex," Jackson said. "My mind doesn't run that way. When I see children, I see the face of God. That's why I love them so much. That's what I see." As freaky as it all might sound and look, nobody can accuse Jackson of waffling or tailoring his story. His defense last night was identical to the one he offered in the Martin Bashir documentary, which aired last February on ABC and which, as it happens, is the cause of his current troubles. In that film, Jackson sat hand in hand with a 13-year-old and explained how the boy's frequent trips to Neverland, Jackson's sprawling ranch/amusement park, helped the child beat cancer.

Scenes from that film led to a complaint, an investigation and ultimately to Jackson's arrest, even though the scenes in question -- which were re-aired last night -- show the boy (his face pixelated) describing his host as an overgrown kid, not a pedophile. Asked by Bradley why the same child now accuses him of molestation, Jackson blamed the boy's mother.

"Somewhere greed got in there," he said, "and somebody, I, I can't quite say. But it has to do with money." He might be right about that, but Jackson seems to have a paranoid's sense of victimhood. Last night he said unnamed forces had conspired to suppress sales of his new greatest hits collection. And his allegations against the arresting officers were either the ravings of a madman or grounds for a brutality lawsuit.

"My shoulder is dislocated, literally," he said, adding that handcuffs used by the officers that day were strapped so tightly to his wrists that they caused bruises and swelling. The pain is so terrible, he complained, that he's unable to sleep. He produced a photo that showed a grotesque welt on his arm, which he said was caused by the cuffs.

Stranger still, Jackson said that when he asked to use the toilet after his arrest, police directed him to a restroom covered in feces -- he called it "doo-doo" -- and was locked there for 45 minutes. As he waited, a cop allegedly taunted him, with schoolyard lines like "Does it smell good enough for you in there?" This all seems ludicrous, but nobody from the sheriff's office appeared to counter any of it, and aside from a statement by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon maintaining that Jackson was treated fairly, there was no rebuttal.

Bradley asked prying questions without seeming like a bully or a con man, and without resorting to indignation or feigned sympathy. For fairness' sake, he should have mentioned that the credibility of the mother of Jackson's accuser has been called into question. (In another case, she collected a settlement from J.C. Penney after accusing guards there of beating her child.) Mostly Bradley just sat back and let Jackson murmur in that shattered, overly dramatic way of his.

Which was more than enough show. The former King of Pop considers himself a modern Jesus, a man who cures cancer-stricken youngsters and is repaid for his good works with nothing but persecution.  Clearly beset by his own set of demons, he would seem pitiable if he didn't also come across as such an arrogant maniac whenever he opens his expensively sculpted mouth. Only his lawyers can help him now. Jackson, in the meantime, should just shut up and dance.