- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

From combined dispatches — LOS ANGELES — Pop superstar Michael Jackson yesterday set up a Web site to denounce child sex-abuse charges against him as “a big lie.”

In a six-paragraph statement on the site (www.mjnews.us) addressed to “fans, friends and family,” Mr. Jackson acknowledged that accusations of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14 are “terribly serious.”

“They are, however, predicated on a big lie,” said the statement, attributed to Mr. Jackson. “This will be shown in court, and we will be able to put this horrible time behind us.”

Mr. Jackson said he could not comment much more in public about the case, which is expected to lead to one of the most sensational celebrity court cases ever.

“Because the charges are so serious, I hope you all will understand, on the advice of my attorneys, I will be limited in what I can say about the situation,” Mr. Jackson said. “There will be times when I cannot comment at all. No doubt, this will be frustrating for all of us.”

“We intend to try our case in the courtroom, not in the public or the media,” the singer stated.

A public relations executive who is not involved in the Jackson case said the Web site lets the entertainer speak to the public directly.

“He’s able to communicate with those people interested without the message being filtered by the media,” said Doug Dowie, senior vice president of Fleishman-Hillard. “If he wants to put out an 800-word press release, you can read all 800 words.”

The 45-year-old father of three was released on $3 million bail after his surrender Thursday in the full glare of the world’s press and immediately returned to Las Vegas, where he had been making a video.

Authorities have said they expect to file formal charges sometime after Thanksgiving. The first hearing has been set for Jan. 9.

Newsweek magazine reported that the boy accusing Mr. Jackson is a cancer survivor who appeared in a British documentary about the singer shown in February.

The two appeared holding hands and talking about how the boy and his younger brother had slept in Mr. Jackson’s bed.

Both Mr. Jackson and the boy insisted there was nothing sexual about these visits, and in the media firestorm that followed the broadcast, the boy’s mother came forward to defend the singer.

A family friend, however, told Newsweek the boy’s mother began pulling her family away from Mr. Jackson when his people later offered to relocate the family to Latin America to avoid the media glare.

“They were trying to shut them up,” the friend told the weekly.

The weekly, citing unnamed sources, said the boy met Mr. Jackson through a comedy club owner who was trying to help the boy.

After the charges were made, Mr. Jackson returned to Las Vegas, where he had been taping a music video. His whereabouts yesterday were unclear.

Over the weekend, fans gathered in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Lisbon, Rome and Budapest for vigils in support of the singer organized by his international fan club.

About 40 people gathered at Mr. Jackson’s star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. “Michael, you are not alone,” proclaimed one sign at the gathering. “This is an evil conspiracy,” read another.

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