- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2004

World-renowned entertainer Michael Jackson yesterday met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a host of African ambassadors to discuss the growing pandemic of AIDS.

The “King of Pop” arrived in the afternoon at the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, in a second day of meetings with caucus members before he was honored by the African Ambassadors’ Spouses Association for his humanitarian efforts in Africa spanning more than three decades.

“I cannot imagine a greater asset to this fight against AIDS in Africa and helping us make good on President Bush’s promises than to have Michael Jackson with us,” Mrs. Jackson-Lee said.

Mr. Jackson met privately on Tuesday with Reps. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, and Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat.

The singer wanted to meet with all 39 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss AIDS relief in Africa, but some members declined to meet as a body because of a full legislative schedule, Mrs. Jackson-Lee said.

This apparent snub left some on Capitol Hill with the impression that some caucus members were too nervous to be associated with the pop star.

Mr. Jackson is the subject of a highly publicized grand jury investigation in California involving seven counts of child molestation and two counts of giving alcohol to a minor. He was arrested and released Nov. 20 on $3 million bail in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Mr. Jackson has donated money to charitable causes throughout his 40-year career.

The most well-known of his philanthropic efforts was his writing the song “We are the World” in 1984. Various musicians and singers lent their voices to the single, which sold millions of copies. The money was used to provide food and aid to drought-stricken countries throughout Africa.

For the past few years, Mr. Jackson has been working to raise money and awareness of the 9,000 people who die each day from AIDS throughout the continent.

“This is very, very important to me,” Mr. Jackson said in an unexpected response to a question from a reporter about his commitment to fighting the spread of the disease.

In a written statement issued earlier, Mr. Jackson said that he and the Congressional Black Caucus “all share the same commitment and we all care about what happens in our sister continent of Africa.”

Although Mr. Jackson made no attempt to politicize the issue, several members of the caucus present, including Mrs. Jackson-Lee, Reps. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Bobby L. Rush, both Illinois Democrats, and Rep. William Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat, attacked Mr. Bush for not living up to his commitment to boost AIDS relief and research.

In his 2001 State of the Union address, the president called on Congress to supply $15 billion over five years for AIDS treatment and education in Africa and the Caribbean. But Congress has budgeted a little more than $4 billion in the three years since.

“We need the administration to join us in this fight — to keep the promise that the president made, a promise made a promise kept,” Mrs. Jackson-Lee said.

The delegation of ambassadors also asked Mr. Jackson to help them raise money to fund the construction of schools and develop clean water sources. Although the singer said he will keep his promise, he will not be able to leave the country until his legal troubles are resolved.

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