- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

LOS ANGELES (Agence France-Presse) — Michael Jackson said yesterday that he has been “overwhelmed” by the support of fans since being charged with child molestation.

Mr. Jackson, who was meant to be heading for Britain, sent a message to his fans on a Web site that has been opened as part of his campaign to defend himself.

“To My Wonderful Fans,” began the message. “I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that you have shown over the past few weeks. You have touched my heart in ways that words cannot adequately express.”

Mr. Jackson said the site, mjnetworks.com, had been created “not only as a reflection of my appreciation for that support, but also to provide a site for your communication.”

“I love you and thank you so very much. God Bless You,” the singer concluded.

Hundreds of celebrities, relatives and fans of the pop icon massed at his Neverland Ranch in California on Saturday for a party to show support for him as he faces child-sex charges.

Among the guests were tennis star Serena Williams, rapper MC Hammer, Mr. Jackson’s sister LaToya, his parents Katherine and Joe, former teen pop stars Nick and Aaron Carter and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.

The event at the ranch northwest of Santa Barbara came ahead of Mr. Jackson’s scheduled departure for Britain. His spokesman was unavailable yesterday to confirm whether the pop star had left.

Spokesman Stuart Backerman stressed that the party, held two days after Mr. Jackson was charged with sex abuse of a young boy, was a gathering of loyal friends.

“The purpose of the event, which has had wild speculation, number one is a private gathering of friends and family to show support for Michael Jackson,” Mr. Backerman said.

The event had been planned for 300 persons, but aides said up to 600 supporters might have been there.

Mr. Backerman would not comment on whether any children had been present at the party.

Mr. Jackson was charged on Thursday with seven counts of sexually abusing a boy under 14 and two counts of plying the boy with alcohol to take advantage of him.

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