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Nation of Islam is latest twist in Jackson case

Geragos: "They're trying to inject the Nation of Islam as some kind of a buzz word into this."

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Mark Geragos responds to the child molestation charges filed against his client by the Santa Barbara district attorney
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Santa Barbara County, California, court clerks process documents charging pop star Michael Jackson with child molestation
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Tom Sneddon, district attorney of Santa Barbara County, California, says Michael Jackson faces seven counts of molestation (poor audio)
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• Charges against Jackson California v. Jackson (FindLaw, PDF)external link
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Michael Jackson

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The public relations firm hired by the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office denied it "played the race card" in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson, countering a statement made by defense attorney Mark Geragos on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday.

King asked Geragos about news reports stating that his client had joined Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, and that renowned defense attorney Johnnie Cochran would be replacing Geragos.

"The fact of the matter is -- you want to know where this originates from? It's the PR firm that the prosecution hired," Geragos said. "And what they did is, they played the race card. They're trying to inject Johnnie Cochran into this. They're trying to inject the Nation of Islam as some kind of a buzz word into this."

Susan Tellem, head of the PR firm Tellem Worldwide, told CNN's Art Harris she was "baffled" by Geragos' claim.

"We have no idea where he got that," she said.

Jackson, 45, who was booked November 20 and released on $3 million bond, was charged Thursday with seven counts of child molestation and two of administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of molesting a child. Jackson is to be arraigned January 16.

He has denied all the charges.

Geragos denied, as did Jackson's brother Jermaine, that Michael was planning to join Louis Farrakhan's controversial African-American organization, or that Cochran would take over as his attorney.

Geragos said he learned of the information "on background from various reporters who admitted that the PR flack firm that they just hired, their crisis management ... was the one who's out there fanning the flames of this."

Earlier, Jackson's spokesman, Stuart Backerman, denied media reports that the Nation of Islam had taken over and fired Michael's defense team and PR team.

Backerman told CNN "like many groups and people who have come to Michael's defense, he is grateful" for the support of the Nation of Islam, but the organization is not "taking over."

"The Nation of Islam has received no funding or direction from the Jackson camp," he said. "They have not been sanctioned."

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