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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 10:38 GMT
Mixed views on Jackson response
Peter Bowes
BBC News in Los Angeles

Michael Jackson
Jackson wants to prove the documentary was unfair
The US reaction to Michael Jackson's two-hour rebuttal of a controversial documentary about his life has been mixed.

US broadcaster Fox TV screened the two-hour special - based on footage purchased from Jackson - on Thursday.

The documentary, The Michael Jackson interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See, featured interviews with Jackson's former wife, Debbie Rowe, his make-up artist, parents and brother Jermaine.

"It was boring and pointless," said Frank Sanello, Hollywood historian and syndicated newspaper columnist.

"He severely damaged himself in the original television documentary in which he admitted that he lets children sleep in his bed and I found nothing tonight that clears that up."

David Salter, a student at the University of Southern California, was less critical.

"It was interesting, one of the things the documentary shows is how selective editing can really change the entire look of a person in the public's eye," he said.

"This documentary was very successful in portraying him as a normal guy who just never really grew up and is just trying to live the childhood days that he never had, being a child star," added Mr Salter.

Large audience

Many people appear to believe that Martin Bashir used dubious journalistic tactics to lull Jackson into a false sense of security.

"In front of Michael he would say that he really supported the way Michael handled his children and other children and when Michael wasn't around he'd say something different. So it's tough on his integrity," said Mr Salter.

"They showed him doing that really common kind of sleazy journalistic practice and it is when you interview someone, in order to gain their confidence, you pay them lavish compliments and slowly you worm your way into their confidence then you zing them with a question and they're stuck,' added Mr Sanello.

"It's kind of tacky but what's at issue here is, are there children being harmed? I don't care if it's tacky to get to that truth," he said.

Michael Jackson with his former wife Debbie Rowe (right)
Rowe [right] admitted that the pair had a "non-traditional family"

According to the Fox network, Jackson had no editorial control over the programme.

Bashir was seen lavishing praise on Jackson and at one point agreeing with the singer's make-up artist that his treatment by the press was "disgusting".

He was shown complimenting Jackson's Neverland ranch as "nothing short of spiritual" for children to visit.

Bashir has previously gone on record as saying the singer's home was a "dangerous place" for vulnerable children.

Jackson's parenting skills also appeared to be complimented by Bashir in the documentary.

"Your relationship with your children is spectacular - it almost makes me weep when I see you with them because your interaction with them is so natural, so loving, so caring," he said

The documentary is likely to have achieved a large audience for the Fox network. Many Americans watched in bars - just as they did for the original Bashir programme.

"I actually agree with what he's doing," said one man watching in Hollywood, who supports Michael Jackson's decision to come forward with the footage.

"It's good that he's taking a stand and fighting back against the tabloid media."

"It's a witch-hunt," added another. "People should mind their own business and leave him alone."

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