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Michael Jackson: Confronting Controversy

In late 2003, facing charges of sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy at his famous Neverland Ranch in California, Michael Jackson addressed the allegations in an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley.

"I wanted to have a place that I could create everything that I never had as a child. So you see rides, you see animals, there's a movie theater. I was always on tour traveling, you know, and I never got a chance to do those things. So I compensated for the loss by - I have a good time - I mean, I can't go into a park, I can't go to Disneyland as myself. I can't go out and walk down the street. There's crowds and bumper-to-bumper cars. So I create my world behind my gates. Everything that I love is behind those gates. We have elephants and giraffes and crocodiles and every kind of tigers and lions. And we have busloads of kids who don't get to see those kids, they come up, sick children, and enjoy it," Michael Jackson told Bradley.

"They enjoy it in a pure, loving, fun way. It's people with a dirty mind that think like that. I don't think that way. That's not me," Jackson added.

"And do you think people look at you and think that way today?" Bradley asked.

"If they have a sick mind, yeah. And if they believe the trash they read in newspapers, yeah. Remember something, just because it's in print doesn't mean it's the Gospel. People write negative things because they feel that's what sells," Jackson said. "Good news to them doesn't sell."

And Jackson says his relationship with this boy he first met a year ago was positive. He says he was determined to help him with his battle against cancer. Jackson says he tried to help the healing process by taking the boy around the grounds of Neverland to Jackson's favorite places.

"He had never really climbed a tree, so I had this tree that I have at Neverland. I call it my giving tree because I like to write songs up there. I've written many songs up there. I said, 'You have to climb a tree. That's part of boyhood. You've just got to do it.' And I helped him up. And once he went up, up the tree, we looked down on the branches and it was so beautiful. It was magical, and he loved it. It gave him a chance to have a life, you know? Because he was told he was going to die. They told him, they told his parents to prepare for his funeral, that's how bad it was. And I put him on a program. I've helped many children doing this," Jackson told Bradley.

The boy, whose name and face 60 Minutes did not reveal, has credited Michael Jackson's friendship and support with helping him to battle his cancer.

"Isn't that great? Not sick at all. No more cancer," Jackson said.

In a British documentary that was filmed before the boy alleged he was sexually molested, he said that he had stayed overnight at Jackson's home many times and had slept in his bedroom.

"There was one night I stood here and I asked him if I could stay in his bedroom, and he let me stay in the bedroom. And I was like, 'Michael, you can sleep on the bed.' And he was like 'No, no. You sleep on the bed. Sleep on the bed.' We're, like, 'No, no, no. No, you sleep on the bed.' And then he finally said, 'OK, if you love me, you'll sleep on the bed.' I was, like, 'Oh, man.' And so I finally slept on the bed," the boy told the documentary filmmakers.

"You said in that documentary that many children have slept in your bedroom. You said...and I'm going to quote here, 'Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone,'" Bradley remarked. "As we sit here today, do you still think that it's acceptable to share your bed with children?"

"Of course. Of course. Why not?" Jackson asked. "If you're going to be a pedophile, if you're going to be Jack the Ripper, if you're going to be a murderer, it's not a good idea. That I'm not. That's how we were raised. And I met, I didn't sleep in the bed with the child. Even if I did, it's OK. I slept on the floor. I gave the bed to the child."

"But given all that you've been through...given the allegations...given the innuendo, why would you put yourself in the position where something like this could happen again?" Bradley asked.

"Well, I'm always more cautious, but I would never stop helping and loving people the way Jesus said to. He said, 'Continue to love. Always love. Bring on the children. Imitate the children. Not childish but childlike,'" Jackson replied.

Asked if he would allow one of his three children to sleep in the bed of an unrelated grown man, or to sleep in the bedroom, Jackson said, "Sure, if I know that person, trust them and love them. That's happened many times with me when I was little."

"Would you, as a parent, allow your children to sleep in the same bedroom with someone who has the suspicions and allegations that have been made against you and about you today? Would you allow that?" Bradley asked. "If you knew someone who had the same... kind of allegations...that were made against you...would you let your children...sleep in that man's bedroom?"

"If I knew the person personally, because I know how the press is. I know how people can twist the truth. If I knew the person personally, absolutely yes. Absolutely. I wouldn't have a problem with it," Jackson said.

"Do you know how this looks to a lot of people? I mean, do you understand that?" Bradley asked.

"How does what look?" Jackson asked.

"How the fact that you...," Bradley said.

"Know why? People think sex. They're thinking sex. 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," Jackson said.

"Do you know any other man your age, a 45-year-old man, who shares his bedroom with children?" Bradley asked.

"Of course. Not for sex. No, that's wrong," Jackson said.

"Well, let me say, from my perspective, my experience, I don't know any 45-year-old men who are not relatives of the children who share their bedroom with other children," Bradley remarked.

"Well, what's wrong with sharing your bed?" Jackson asked. "I didn't say I slept in the bed. Even if I did sleep in the bed, it's OK. I am not going to do anything sexual to a child. It's not where my heart is. I would slit my wrists first. I would never do anything like that. That's not Michael Jackson, I'm sorry. That's someone else."

And the Michael Jackson of today is not the Michael Jackson who at one time was the number-one pop star in the world: his "Thriller" CD topped the charts, while his latest didn't crack the top 10.

Asked what these allegations have done to his career and how they have impacted his record sales, Jackson told Bradley, "My album's number one all over the world. All over the world. America's the only one, because I don't want to say too much."

"But it's not number one in the United States," Bradley pointed out.

"It's conspiracy, yeah," Jackson said. "I don't want to say too much. I'm done."

"I don't want to say much because I'm hurting. I'm really hurting," he added.

Before Jackson's attorney stopped the interview, Bradley was able to ask him one last question.

"Michael, what would you say to your fans who have supported you through all of this and who today, some of them might have questions. What would you say to them?" Bradley asked.

"Well, I would tell them I love them very much, and they've learned about me and know about me from a distance, but if you really want to know about me there is a song I wrote which is the most honest song I've ever written. It's the most autobiographical song I've ever written. It's called 'Childhood,'" Jackson said. "They should listen to it. That's the one they really should listen to."

"And thank you for your support. The fans around the world, I love you with all my heart," Jackson added. "I don't take any of it for granted, any of it. And I love them dearly, all over the world."