On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera conducted an intimate and revealing interview with Michael Jackson. Here we see a glimpse of the real man, the father, the warrior and the tender heart behind the media's often very inaccurate portrayal.
Geraldo Rivera: How you doing, man?
Michael Jackson: How you doing?
GR: Good to see you.
GR: You get to smile anymore?
MJ: Of course, I smile a lot.
GR: You smile when you’re in a recording studio like this one, doing music?…
MJ: Of course, I love music.
GR: Is it nice to get back to the music? …
MJ: It’s fantastic. Because ahhh… It’s my life. That’s what I do.
GR: You’ve been so distracted, you know, you want to talk about how you’re feeling?
MJ: I’m doing fine Geraldo, how are you?
GR: Despite whatever else goes on in the world, you’re doing ok?
MJ: I’m doing very well, thank you.
GR: You know, it was wonderful, seeing you with the children. That I think, is the real Michael Jackson that has not been seen… you with your own children, one in diapers the other two toddlers… I don’t know how you manage without a nanny.
MJ: Well, I enjoy taking care of my children myself it’s... it’s fun that’s why I had them so I could take care of them and it’s just great relief for me you know it’s a pleasure it keeps me happy and laughing and you know, they’re wonderful sweet innocent children.
GR: I saw you as kind of the arbitrator between the Nickelodeon and the Disney channel there. You got some really difficult problems to solve there. But you have such a- a kind of a normal life there. It’s sweet to see.
MJ: Thank you. They bring me that.
GR: Tell me, tell me what the children mean to you, your own children.
MJ: They mean, it’s hard to put it into words because they mean everything. The way you would explain how your children make you feel... They’re the world for me, I wake up and I’m ready for the day because of them. I get them breakfast, I change diapers, if they want to read, we do a lot of reading, we play hide and seek, we play blind fold and have a wonderful time with it.
GR: And you can create a world that at least begins to seem normal? They don’t know any other world obviously.
MJ: I do my best for sure.
GR: So, that is obviously a priority to you
MJ: Yes of course. I want to be the best father in the world of course.
GR: Do they know who you are? Or what you mean to people?
MJ: Yes, they do. They’ve been on tours with me and in limousines among a sea of fans.
GR: Do they like it?
MJ: They find it exciting. They want to get on stage. They bug me to go on stage with me. So, pretty sure I ‘m going to take them on with me and let the world see them for the first time.
GR: They don’t say, ‘Daddy I want to go home and watch Nickelodeon?’
MJ: (Laughs) Probably, probably.
GR: They do that too.
GR: So how do you feel being here again, being in a recording studio again, focussing on the music again? Is it a relief, in a sense?
MJ: It’s a great relief. It makes me feel like I’m totally at home. I’m into my own. Which is what I’m here for. Any of the arts… like that could be film, you know, music, any type of art, I love it.
GR: So, when you’re being the quote on quote, King of Pop, that’s when you’re the most comfortable? Or is it the creative process?
MJ: The creative process, yes. I’m obsessed with creating…
GR: I saw you and Randy, the way you guys react - it’s very reminiscent of the way my brothers and I are together. Who’s top dog?
GR: That’s not what I saw
GR: But, uh, you trust your family.
MJ: Of course, you have to.
GR: Is it a ‘blood thicker than water’ thing? What is it?
MJ: Family is everything. It’s love. It’s what we were taught. We’re friends at the end of the day, which is important. Other than what the public or press people say, we’re friends. We love each other very much.
GR: So, is the family closely knit, despite all the tabloid stuff?
MJ: That’s sensationalism.
GR: How do you deal with that?
MJ: How do I deal with sensationalism?
GR: Yeah. How do you deal with everything in your life being magnified, exaggerated, almost to a grotesque level.
MJ: It’s like looking at a fictitious movie. Because its fiction. It’s like watching science fiction. It’s not true. And I know myself and it’s sad when people have to read those things and they believe it.
GR: Do you feel like holding a press conference every week and saying, this is the rumor du jour, it’s not true
MJ: I know eventually, the truth will prevail and I’m about truth.
GR: I’ve researched it and I can’t find anyone who has been more frivolously sued than you for the most outrageous reasons. One of your attorneys told me that a woman called Billie Jean Jackson called and said, ‘Stop accepting any paychecks, Mr. Attorney, I’m the wife - Billie Jean…’ obviously from your hit song, I mean, how do you… First of all, how does it affect you?
MJ: Does it affect me? Yes, but I’ve become immune in a way too, I have rhinoceros skin but at the same time I’m human. So, anything can hurt like that, but I’m very strong. And, I just don’t like people hearing about such false information.
GR: For instance, did you father quadruplets last year?
MJ: That was a crazy rumor.
GR: Then they became twins. I don’t know what happened to the other two, maybe they were abducted by aliens.
MJ: I heard about that story and I don’t have any twins. They said I’m hiding them or something? Another made up rumor.
GR: So it’s completely false.
MJ: The bigger the star, the bigger the target. I’m not trying to say I’m the super-duper star, I’m not saying that. I’m saying the fact that people come at celebrities, we’re targets. But truth always prevails. I believe in that. I believe in God, you know?
GR: Does that faith sustain you?
MJ: Of course, it does.
GR: How about friendship?
MJ: What about friendship?
GR: Do you rely on friends? Have people stayed with you through thick and thin? Who are your best friends?
MJ: My children, my family, my brothers and my sisters and yeah, most people have. Most people have.
GR: Do you want to mention the names of the true blue?
MJ: The faithful, you wouldn’t know them so, it’s uh…
GR: Elizabeth Taylor?
MJ: Oh, she’s very loyal, I see Elizabeth Taylor all the time. She’s my dear friend, I was just at her house. We have wonderful talks on the phone at night, several times a week sometimes…
GR: So how long have you two been friends?
MJ: I’ve known Elizabeth closely since I was 16…
GR: And you’ve been making music since you’re five
GR: So you’re in your fifth decade of making music. That’s forty-one years of making music.
GR: You ever get sick of it?
MJ: No, no, not at all I never get enough of it (music).
GR: Do you ever get sick of Randy?
GR: He’s here, ladies and gentlemen.
MJ: Never, never, never He’s (Randy) wonderful. He’s been amazing, supportive, and amazingly brilliant.
GR: So, they’re all different. Your whole family is crazy, exocentric… like my family.
MJ: Every brother, sister is completely different, like any family, you have all the different elements… that’s what makes it a family.
GR: When you have such intense scrutiny, how do you live any kind of a normal life? How do you have any kind of fun outside of your own property?
MJ: I don’t. I go off property sometimes, but not all the time. I create my world behind the gates you know because I can’t go to the local movie theater down the street or the local park down the street or go pickup ice cream at the market, at the corner store. So, you want to create that world behind the gates and that’s what I try and do. And it’s not just for me if I could share with my family, friends, or whoever I do.
GR: And that necessity for some privacy, drives all these crazy rumors and speculations. A difficult balancing act that you have to endure.
GR: But you’re not complaining are you? I don’t. I try to rub it off. I don’t know what I’m the king of… the king of getting shot at maybe. Ha ha ha ha.
MJ: “The king of journalism.”
GR: So, what is it about children in distress? You mentioned the Tsunami relief effort. What is it? Is it your own fatherhood that motivates that?
MJ: Caring. And reading the Bible, learning about God, Jesus, Love. He said, ‘bring on the children’, ‘imitate the children’, ‘be like the children’ and ‘take care of others.’ Take care of old people. And we were raised with those values. Those are very important values and my family and I we were raised with those values and they continue strong in us today.
GR: What about movies for yourself again? You had The Wiz and some of the others but we haven’t seen you on the big screen in a while.
MJ: I’ll be directing myself. I love directing. I love creativity and I think when an artist steps forward with a production of some type, if he can express himself the way he sees it should be done. I feel it and I see it. I’m a visionary. If I can give that, I do and that’s what I love to do with music and dance and the arts.
GR: And do you think art has a role in real life? Specifically referring to this record and Tsunami relief?
MJ: I saw it the day after Christmas and as the numbers kept escalating, it just became phenomenal and not even I could believe that it was true. I was amazed. I said, I thought I should do something. That’s what God gave us talent for. To give and to help people and to give back. So, my brothers and I decided to put a song together…
GR: What did you pick up the phone and say, “hey bros?” What did you say?
MJ: We just say, hey, we want to do something in the studio for the Tsunami victims. Let’s get together and organize it. And they just said great.
GR: However, you’re back, I think that people will appreciate the fact that you’re back. Wouldn’t you kind of exalt in a world where you could concentrate on your art and your kids?
MJ: I would love it. I mean that’s what drives me. The medium. The art. That’s the world I’m most comfortable in.”
GR: In Gary, Indiana, did you ever expect where your world would be as a 46 year old man?
MJ: I never thought about it. I knew I wanted to do something wonderful all of my life and to help people and I never clearly really thought about it when I was really little. I just sang and danced and didn’t understand whey people were applauding and clapping and screaming. You really don’t. You don’t know why…
GR: When you grow up like that on stage, when do you get it? When do you understand where you fit in to society?
MJ: It takes longer when you get older. You get a more rounded personality and your brain starts to grow. You start reasoning and understanding more things, researching.
GR: Isn’t it nice to have a conversation on television where people can just hear you being ordinary, normal, reasonable.
MJ: I’m like this all the time. I’m just being myself.
GR: At a certain point, Michael Jackson and the brothers Jackson kind of separated artistically, is this a moment in your life where you’re coming back together? Obviously you’ll continue your solo career, but what’s the big plan, what’s the big picture at this stage in your life? What has been left unachieved? What would you like to do?
MJ: There are a lot of surprises. Film. I love film. It’s innovating, taking the medium to a new place. I used the music video medium as a short film medium to take me to the next level. I’m having a lot of fun.
GR: Do you ever look back and contemplate, oh my goodness, Thriller is the biggest selling musical performance ever, do you ever get your arms around that?
MJ: I try not to think about it too hard because I don’t want my subconscious mind to think I’ve done it all, you’re done now. That’s why I don’t put awards or trophies in my house. You won’t find a gold record anywhere in my house. Because it makes you feel you’ve accomplished. Look what I’ve done. But I always want to feel, no I haven’t done it yet.
GR: ‘The King of Pop’ and now I look at some of these performers- there’s a new one - there’s 50 cent and another one- I forget his name, but they’re well-known because they survived violent attacks where they almost died and they’re into hip hop kind of - it’s a different era in popular music- do you think you’ll be more like them- more urban kind of- or will the world come back to more pop and traditional rock?
MJ: Great music & great melodies are immortal. Culture changes, fashion change, customs, great music is immortal. We still listen to Mozart today, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, any of them, any of the greats. Great music is like a great piece of sculpture, a great painting. It’s forever. That’s a fact.
GR: On the other hand, I interviewed Barbara Streisand at one pivotal point in her career, she was going to do duets with the BeeGees and other popular artists- she kind of changed the tempo to surprise people.
MJ: I’ve done a lot of it already… I don’t really rap, but I could… I’ve written songs with rap versus in them for very famous rappers, but they’re much better at it than I am.
GR: Don’t you appreciate, despite your isolated life and despite the fact you’ve been a star so long, you still have what appears to be a very passionate and profound relationship with the community. Does that support you? Does that sustain you? Do you agree with me?
MJ: Yes, I do agree, because it’s important to love your neighbors…
GR: But were does it come from… where does that almost instinctive love of you come from?
MJ: I truly think it comes from my mother and God (instinctive love) The way we were raised. The values my father instilled in us in youth. She was always with the Bible teaching us - we’d go to service all the time. Four times a week and I’m so glad we did that because those are values that are very important. I don’t know if I could have done as well without them.
GR: Do you still spend time with mom and dad? They’re not far from here right now? And what is that relationship all about? I’m so close to my mom, obviously.
MJ: It’s wonderful. At this stage, you tend to appreciate more who your parents are more and what they’ve done for you. You start to retrack where you are in your life and all the wonderful things they’ve instilled in you. You start to see them come forth. I’m starting to see a lot of things. Traits that my father influenced me on and my mother.
GR: My friend Cheech, who you know, whose partner Tommy Chong helped discover you guys, ‘Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers’, he says that as he gets older, he looks at his father’s face in the mirror. Do you feel that? Are you becoming like your dad?
MJ: I’m very much like my father in a lot of ways. He’s very strong. He’s a warrior. He’s always taught us to be courageous and to be confident and to believe in our ideals. And no matter what, no star is too far to reach and you never give up. And our mother taught us that as well.
GR: So you’re a warrior also?
GR: That’s the way you see yourself?
GR: Tell us more about the way you see yourself?
MJ: I try to be kind and generous and to give to people and to do what I think God wants me to do. Sometimes I pray and say “where do you want me to go next, God? What do you want me to do from here?” I’ve always been very spiritual in that way. It’s nothing new.
GR: Did you ever see the movie “Finding Neverland” or read about J. M. Barrie, the man who wrote “Peter Pan.”
MJ: I know a lot about Mr. Barrie and I’ve been a fan for many, many, many years.
GR: You know, he had a rocky road, similar to you, I don’t want to get too far into it. Tell us what led to the creation of Neverland. I mean, specifically the place – There are 2 Neverlands, there’s 3. There’s Peter Pan’s Neverland, there’s the Neverland in Michael Jackson’s mind and then there’s the physical place you created up there where I visited you when you brought up all the inner-city children. Why did you create that place?
MJ: I created Neverland as a home for myself and my children and it was created simply, it was almost like it was done subconsciously, like I said earlier, where can I go? I mean, it’s hard. I’ve tried to go out as myself and I’ve had policemen tell me, “put on a disguise! And give me an autograph for my wife!” They tell me, “why are you out here with no security?” I can’t do it. I do it sometimes, but it’s very difficult.
GR: But you owned Neverland before you had the kids, was it for you? The exotic animals, were they for Michael Jackson?
MJ: For me and sharing with others. It gave me a chance to do what I couldn’t do when I was little. We couldn’t go to movie theaters. We couldn’t go to Disneyland. We couldn’t do all those fun things. We were on tour. We were working hard. And we did enjoy it. But this allowed me to have a place behind the gates where the entire world I love is there.
GR: You create, like Barrie, this imaginative world, do you ever outgrow something like that Michael? Do you ever think this is silly to have the llamas and the choo-choo trains and the rides?
MJ: It’s calling God silly if you do that, because God made all things great and small. Other men have their Ferraris and their airplanes or helicopters or wherever they find their bliss. My bliss is in giving and sharing and having simple innocent fun.
GR: Your homes. For all the grandeur of Neverland. Your home is quite modest. And your personal style. I don’t see any bling for instance. How come you don’t have the big diamond thing that says Michael?
MJ: I’m modest in that way. If I had it on, I would probably give it away to the first kid to say, ‘wow, I like your necklace.’ When I was growing up, stars like Sammy Davis, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly… if I admired something they were wearing, If I simply said, ‘I love that shirt you’re wearing,’ they would give it to me. It’s a show business trait. Hand it over.
GR: Despite the glare of the media attention and even the day that I was there and you invited the inner-city kids there, what’s it like to have the kids there? Why do you do that? I wanted to ask you that question that day but I pose it to you know.
MJ: I’ve traveled the world over 8 times. I do as many hospitals and orphanages as I do concerts. But, of course, it’s not covered (by the press). That’s not why I do it, for coverage. I do it because it’s from my heart. And there are so many children in the city who haven’t seen the mountains, who haven’t been on a carousel, who haven’t pet a horse or a llama, never seen them, so if I can open my gates and see that bliss, an explosion of screaming laughter from the children and they run on the rides, I say “Thank you, God.” I feel I’ve won God’s smile of approval, because I’m doing something that brings joy and happiness to other people.
GR: So, you’re close to your siblings? How does it affect you when they get involved - like Janet’s superbowl flap? Just tell me how you responded as a brother and a viewer?
MJ: Oh, I can’t speak for my sister. With love. Actually, I was looking right at it and I didn’t see it. I was at a friend of mine’s house, Ron Burkle and in a movie theater, it was huge on the screen and I didn’t even see it. I heard all this controversy the next day and I said, “That’s not true.” I didn’t even see it.
GR: Do you think the controversy was overblown? Do you think it’s a Jackson related phenomena or is it a testament to our times socially in this country?
MJ: That’s an interesting hypothesis too. It’s both. It’s hard to answer. I’d rather not answer that one.
GR: Did you call her and say ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’
MJ: Something like that. ‘Be strong. This too shall pass.’ ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I’ve seen worse things. I said, “Janet, you’re too young to remember but, I once watched the Oscars with David Niven on it and a naked man came running out, streaking. Now, he didn’t get there on his own. That was organized and nobody - they didn’t say much about that.” I’ll just say that much. That was live, around the world. The next day it was a joke.
GR: I think there is a Jackson component. I think the thing was exaggerated. I think the Jackson thing was part of the reason.
MJ: Thank you.
GR: So as you go forward in this record, what are we going to expect? Are we going to hear this on the radio and then people are going to send in their money and it’s going to go to these kids in the Indian Ocean region?
MJ: I would like that very much.
GR: Now tell me, how that act of largesse, that compassion, will make you feel? Sometimes, I think, I feel better giving than receiving in my life, explain the mechanics of that in your own life.
MJ: It’s just the idea. I don’t know if its the psychology of it or what. I just love working hard on something. Putting it together. Sweating over it and then sharing it with people and then having them love it and I always pray that they like it. That’s what gives me great satisfaction as an artist.
GR: Does it frustrate you professionally or personally when people say that this Jackson project flopped or that happened. Your ‘Number Ones’ compilation for instance, 7 and a half million copies sold. Now I think that’s quadruple platinum or whatever it is you label it. And yet the characterization by some in the music business at least is that you’re not- you know, that it wasn’t a hit.
MJ: I don’t know which project you’re talking about… because of negative news. Sensationalism seems to sell more than wonderful, positive news. People would rather hear gossip. My last 8 albums have all entered the charts at number 1, so people like to sensationalize things and make up stories and rumors and sometimes…
GR: Does it hurt your feelings? Do you want to scream out and say, “Hey wait a minute, check the numbers!”
MJ: It’s a commonality in mankind that I don’t like. That part of it, but then there’s a beautiful side to mankind too, isn’t there?
GR: But not to Eminem. We’ve spoken about it. I think that you should. Why not?
MJ: And what’s your question?
GR: Stevie Wonder said that he was piling on and how really rude it was for someone who made his money from the community to ‘diss the community in a sense in a racist and, I’ve said it, very bold faced, bigoted presentation. Tell us how that hurt you and how you’re feeling about it now.
MJ: I’ve never met Mr. Eminem, and I’ve always admired him and to have him do something like that was pretty painful as an artist to another artist and it’s sad because I think what Stevie Wonder said is true, I just don’t want to say too much more than that. He (Eminem) should be ashamed of himself what he’s doing. Stevie said he’s bulls***. He used the word. That’s what he said. I’m not saying it, Stevie said it. Stevie’s amazing. He’s one of the sweetest men in the world.
GR: Stevie did and he is bulls***. So, when Stevie said that, did you feel a tremendous sense of reassurance, of brotherly love, there?
MJ: I love Stevie Wonder. To me, he’s a musical prophet. I’ll always love him. A lot of people respect Stevie and he’s a very strong entity in this medium, in this business and when he speaks, people listen and it was wrong of Eminem to do what he did. I’ve been an artist most of my life and I’ve never attacked a fellow artist. great artists don’t do that. You don’t have to do that.
GR: I mentioned Janet’s fiasco and the exaggerated response to it. Once again do you think he only did it because he knew he could get away with it because you’re Michael Jackson?
MJ: Yeah, but it doesn’t hurt. It’s silly. It’s kind of elementary. I hope he’s having fun…
GR: Like a poo-poo joke. It still hurts your feelings and you don’t want your kids to see it.
MJ: Oh god, I would hate it if they saw it. I would hate that”
GR: Finally, we’ve studiously avoided the case and not talked at all about the case that’s pending. You’re under this gag order. I know that you have received permission from the judge to read a statement. I hate to end an interview that way, but if you’d like to read that statement now, I think it’s important.
MJ: IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS, A LARGE AMOUNT OF UGLY, MALICIOUS INFORMATION HAS BEEN RELEASED INTO THE MEDIA ABOUT ME. APPARENTLY, THIS INFORMATION WAS LEAKED THROUGH TRANSCRIPTS IN A GRAND JURY PROCEEDING WHERE NEITHER MY LAWYERS NOR I EVER APPEARED. THE INFORMATION IS DISGUSTING AND FALSE.
YEARS AGO, I ALLOWED A FAMILY TO VISIT AND SPEND TIME AT NEVERLAND. NEVERLAND IS MY HOME. I ALLOWED THIS FAMILY INTO MY HOME BECAUSE THEY TOLD ME THEIR SON WAS ILL WITH CANCER AND NEEDED MY HELP.
THROUGH THE YEARS, I HAVE HELPED THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WHO WERE ILL OR IN DISTRESS.
THESE EVENTS HAVE CAUSED A NIGHTMARE FOR MY FAMILY, MY CHILDREN AND ME. I NEVER INTEND TO PLACE MYSELF IN SO VULNERABLE A POSITION AGAIN.
I LOVE MY COMMUNITY AND I HAVE GREAT FAITH IN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM. PLEASE KEEP AN OPEN MIND AND LET ME HAVE MY DAY IN COURT. I DESERVE A FAIR TRIAL LIKE EVERY OTHER AMERICAN CITIZEN. I WILL BE ACQUITTED AND VINDICATED WHEN THE TRUTH IS TOLD.
GR: Michael is there anything else you would like to say?
MJ: Yes. I would just like for the public to keep my family and myself in their prayers. That would be very nice. Thank you, Geraldo.