As Michael Jackson awaits his January 9 arraignment on child molestation charges, perhaps he can find some comfort in the widespread support from his music peers.
At Thursday’s Vibe Awards and various Los Angeles parties surrounding the event, several artists, from LL Cool J to Monica, spoke out against what many consider a harsh attack on the pop icon.
“I’m upset at the way he’s being treated in the media,” Alicia Keys said. “I think they’re really trying to slander his name, and I really think that’s unfair for the way that he’s contributed to the American culture since the day he was born. I think he deserves much more than that.”
Keys was especially troubled by Wednesday’s press conference announcing the allegations, where Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon often answered questions in a rather lighthearted manner (see “Why Is The DA In The Michael Jackson Case Smiling?” ).
“It’s not funny,” she said. “This is someone’s life, and I don’t think he should be reduced to a joke. He’s far more than that.”
Kelly Osbourne agreed. “I think that DA was a little immature and inappropriate with his comments,” she said. “He should be a little more professional.”
Nicole Richie, Lionel Richie’s daughter and Jackson’s goddaughter, believes the charges stem from enemies like Sneddon trying bring Jackson down as he attempts a comeback with Number Ones, which was released Tuesday.
“I grew up with him and I’ve spent a lot of time at Neverland and nothing has ever happened with me in any way,” Richie said. “You have to look at both sides. I do think it is very convenient that his album came out and all this stuff is happening. I definitely do think that’s very convenient. … It really hurts me to see that his whole life is ruined.”
Other musicians stressed that the basis of the U.S. justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty.
“What it always seems like is guilty until proven innocent, and [even] then we might still think you’re guilty,” LL Cool J said. “Until I see some evidence that says he’s guilty, I support him publicly.”
“I have to recognize the fact that there are two sides to every story, and I’ve always been one person to say, ‘Who are we to judge?’ ” said Monica, who performed at 2001′s “Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration, the Solo Years” event. “There only is one judge.”
LL said he feels Jackson is assumed guilty because of his awkward appearance and eccentric actions. “I don’t think that plastic surgery means you’re a pedophile,” he said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover. Some people look perfect, like the [killer in the movie] ‘American Psycho.’ ”
“Michael Jackson’s been dogged for things for the last 10 years or more,” Vibe‘s Emil Wilbekin said, “and I think it’s really hard when you become that big of an artist and you’ve been at the top, it’s like, where else do you go? I feel sorry for him because I think the genius of his music is getting lost in a lot of the scandal and controversy, but the man is human.”
LL Cool J and others also said Jackson should be treated like any other alleged criminal and that things like sending 70 officers to search Neverland is over the top.
“When you get to the point where you give someone a $3 million bail, [that's ridiculous],” the rapper scoffed. “I mean, people hit court with 50 kilos of cocaine and don’t get $3 million bail. Murders don’t get $3 million bails.”
“Definitely people are trying to go after him ’cause he’s a celebrity, trying to make an example out of him,” Ludacris said. “Hopefully, justice will prevail.”
While the latest scandal surrounding Jackson had a lot of his contemporaries up in arms, some were overtaken with frustration and confusion.
“I don’t know what to think, I don’t have enough information,” said Quincy Jones, who produced Jackson’s classic Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad albums. “I just pray for him, and I pray for everyone involved.”
“I don’t know, man. It’s something you hate to see,” was all a solemn Pharrell Williams could say.
“He’s my biggest influence so that’s why I’m very defensive,” Missy Elliott said. “I’m ready to fight about Michael Jackson, so we pray to God he didn’t do it, ’cause I might go to jail trying to defend him.”
Monica said her thoughts are with Jackson’s three children. “This is something I think they are going to have to hear about their dad as children now and as adults later,” she said. “That’s the more unfair part. My prayers go out to both sides until the truth is told.”
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see “Michael Jackson Accused.”