They don't just live in the spotlight. The Jackson family has spent years under a media microscope. And that is never more true than now, with the arraignment of their most famous son. At the family home, the Jacksons protect their privacy, but now the curtain is lifted, with the help of three young men who know Michael Jackson much better than most: his nephews. NBC's Hoda Kotb has an exlusive private look at the Jackson family, the home they know so well, and the life that's a secret to most.
The millions of people watching Friday's arraignment saw hundreds of TV cameras and reporters crushing to get a glimpse of Michael Jackson. But just one camera was with Michael's parents just hours before they left at 4:00 a.m. for the court room in Santa Maria.
“As a mother, it hurts and I pray,” says Katherine Jackson. “I know in my heart that he’s not guilty but you never know what these people are going to try.”
Katherine and Joe spoke to Daphne Barak, an international interviewer with unprecedented access to the people closest to Michael Jackson. During the interview, they said they'd pray and might even sing on the way to the court hearing.
“We might sing Billie Jean,” says Joe Jackson.
The Jacksons have come to trust Barak, and she's been allowed insider status with a family that has shut most journalists out.
Jackson nephews speak out
Like many who get big journalistic scoops, Barak was in the right place at the right time. Three months ago, she began shooting a documentary about Joe, Michael's father. A few weeks into that project, the allegations against Michael hit and she was already there.
Hoda Kotbe: “Daphne, you've had a chance to see sort of inside the Jackson camp. To sort of pull back the curtain, and look at things that other people haven't had a chance to see. What is inside there?”
Barak: “I think it's — we are talking the last few weeks, it's a lot of nervousness, a lot of emotions. We are talking about two parents who are more united than ever. And you know, lots of concerns. I mean, do we have the right representatives? Do we have the right people dealing with Michael?”
Earlier this week, Daphne got an exclusive interview with Jackson's nephews, who openly share their recollections of Michael. They even address the most controversial part of the story.
T.J.: “Sleep in the same room is, all of a sudden, just sexual.”
Taj: “Most people think nasty and think sexual. That's their problem.”
Taryll: “We used to always sleep in the same room.”
It's the next generation of Jacksons, Michael's brother Tito's three boys who call their band “The Three T's,” and idolize Michael Jackson.
Taj: “He is the greatest entertainer of all time, and he's our uncle. So, we would utilize that. We would play songs for him and say, ‘What do you think?’ He would give his advice and we would change it and play it back for him. It was great.”
Barak: “Michael is a perfectionist. Did you have the same experience?”
T.J.: “Yes, because he was recording one of our songs. And he was apologizing: ‘Sorry, I wish I could do it better.’ It was, to us, perfect. To us, it was beyond perfect.”
They are Taj, Terrel, and TJ. While many of the Jacksons have been reluctant to speak, these three are all too eager to tell their side of the story.
T.J.: “He's fun. And a lot of love. So much love. The maximum amount of love a person can have. That's him.”
And they told it to Daphne Barak.
Barak: “Is there a specific story?”
Taryll: “There's so many stories. You know. So many memories, here in the Havenhurst house. We just had a lot of fun-water balloon fights and…”
Taj: “Water fights and pie fights.”
Taryll: “Just…we'd play hide and seek. We just had a lot of fun, lots of fun.”
Barak: “Michael has a great sense of humor, right?”
Taj: “He's a prankster as well, which has now rubbed off on us.”
Taryll: “The stink bombs and the smelly perfume. When you spray it, it smells like rotten eggs. We had a lot of fun.”
These men, now 25, 28, and 30, were boys when they spent time with their uncle and they have a unique perspective on him from a child's point of view.
Barak: “Michael also went through an accusation 10 years ago. Didn't you try to warn him: Be more careful; watch who you're hanging around?”
Taj: “I'm older, so it was all around me. I would to a grocery market and people would be making jokes and stuff like that. It was always all around me. I went on vacation one time and it was there, so I couldn't escape it.”
Barak: “Did you know there was something going on, Taryll?”
Taryll: “Yeah. It's strange because you don't…there's not a question of whether it's true or not, because you know it's not. It hurts! We're human beings. We're people. Some things that are said, it hurts. They're mean not only does it hurt our uncle. He's got a family. He's got children. He's got nephews and nieces.”
Barak: “Did you try to tell him, ‘Uncle, be more careful?’”
Taj: “The thing is that when you say stuff like that, it implies that person's doing something wrong. Like if something says, ‘Hey you. Be more careful about that.’ That means that person's doing something wrong. In my eyes, to live with a child's heart. From the viewpoint of being, I don't want to say childlike, but just, more innocent and not the way everyone else thinks. It's the way I like to live as well, in terms of that.”
And the most controversial part of the Michael Jackson story — sleepovers at Neverland — seemed entirely innocent from the inside, according to the three nephews.
Barak: “How do you explain the publicity about sleeping with children?”
Taj: “I think it was misinterpreted. It was definitely misinterpreted. That's one thing that everyone thinks is one think, that's completely different. It's like, for every positive thing, people only remember the negative. They only remember the rumors and false accusations.”
T.J.: “I think also that, he's so much fun and gives so much love, kids don't want to ever leave him.”
And they didn't either. In fact, they had many sleepovers at their uncle's house when they were boys.
Barak: “You were also sleeping with your uncle, quote unquote sleeping, tell me what is going on we are all curious to know what does that mean?”
Taryll: “Its just, you know, watching three stooges in the room or watching cartoons you know it is nothing sexual.”
Barak: “How old were you?”
Taryll: “We still do that. From growing up from when we were little kids to now, we still do that and there's nothing wrong with that. It's fun, you know. You watch television; you laugh. You talk. There's nothing wrong.”
Taj: “I think people automatically assume it's the same bed or something like that, and it's not. It's a sleepover party. Sleeping bags and stuff like that. The way other people think, they think sexual all the time.”
Kotb: “When this came up about how the three now young men used to sleep over at Michael Jackson's house when they were kids, they were clear about being in sleeping bags. They made it clear. No bed. What did you take from that?”
Barak: “I think they just wanted to say, look, I mean we've been there, done that. It's not what you think. You know? It may look differently but it's not what you think. It's not really something sexual. It's like sort of a pajama party. And you know it's just that's what we're doing. Sleeping in sleeping bags, eating popcorn, and everything. It was quite — they were going into details into. And they just sounded very innocent.”
Kotb: “When you went straight to the allegations, what was the vibe in the room like?”
Barak: “Not stressful at all.”
Kotb: “Do you think that they truly and honestly believe that their uncle is innocent?”
Barak: “Yes. Absolutely.That's their belief.”
T.J.: “We love our family. We have the greatest family, so we wouldn't trade it for anything. But at the same time, you’ve got to be strong.”