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Jackson tries 'shooting the messenger,' British TV network says

'I am bewildered at the length to which people will go to portray me so negatively,' Michael Jackson said.
'I am bewildered at the length to which people will go to portray me so negatively,' Michael Jackson said.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The British television network that broadcast a critical documentary on eccentric singer Michael Jackson defended the program Monday after Jackson said it "grossly misled" viewers.

"This is becoming the most expensive, clumsy and desperate attempt at shooting the messenger we've ever seen," Britain's Granada Television said in a released statement.

The self-proclaimed "King of Pop" had released a statement one day earlier saying he has authorized the release of excerpts of footage -- shot by his personal cameraman while documentary host Martin Bashir was interviewing Jackson -- that "proves Bashir grossly misled his audience."

But Granada said Jackson's aides tried to sell the excerpts to Britain's Sunday newspapers for 60,000 pounds [$98,000] "and found no takers."

"Our film is candid, revealing and honest," the network said. "There is nothing misleading about it and no lies. Reaction to it stems from what Michael Jackson says and does in the film, not Martin Bashir's actions or words."

Bashir spent eight months as part of Jackson's entourage to produce the documentary, called "Living with Michael Jackson." After it was broadcast in Britain on Monday, an angry Jackson issued a statement saying he was "devastated" and calling Bashir a "salacious ratings-chaser."

In the documentary, shown Thursday in the United States, Jackson said he still allows children to stay with him in his bedroom, despite a high-profile 1993 investigation into sexual misconduct allegations involving a 13-year-old boy.

"I am bewildered at the length to which people will go to portray me so negatively," Jackson said in a statement released Sunday by his company, MJJ Productions.

"I will say again that I have never, and would never, harm a child. It sickens me that people have written untrue things about me."

In the documentary, Bashir said that it was in Berlin, Germany -- where Jackson, in an infamous scene, dangled his youngest son over a hotel balcony for the crowd to see -- that he began to question Michael's abilities as a father.

"However, the Jackson footage clearly shows that Bashir's praises only increased as time went by," Jackson's statement said.

"Bashir comments on topics ranging from expressing pity that the world is so quick to criticize Michael, to Michael's stellar abilities as a father. Bashir went so far as to admit that Michael's abilities as a father were so spectacular they nearly brought him to tears."

Last week a prosecutor said Jackson's admission that he still lets children stay overnight in his bedroom at his California ranch is not enough to pursue an investigation of the pop star.

Under California law, merely sleeping with a child, without "affirmative, offensive conduct," isn't criminal, and law enforcement officials would also have to have cooperation from a victim before any charges could be brought, said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. in a statement.

Jackson's 3,000-acre ranch, Neverland, is located in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles.

"Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone, " Jackson said in the documentary. "You say, 'You can have my bed if you want it. Sleep in it. I'll sleep on the floor. It's yours.' I always give the beds to the company."

"It's not sexual. We're going to sleep," he said, adding that he would not mind if his three children slept with an adult that he knew and trusted.

Jackson was never charged in the 1993 case, though Sneddon said the investigation remains "open, but inactive." Jackson later reached a multimillion-dollar out-of-court settlement with the boy's family, which he would not discuss because of a confidentiality agreement.

But Jackson said that he decided to agree to the settlement to avoid dragging out the controversy.

The MJJ Productions statement charges the unreleased footage shows Bashir's malice.

"I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before, that someone who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair program," he said.

Jackson has filed formal complaints with Britain's Broadcasting Standards Commission and Independent Television Commission, accusing Bashir of using footage of Jackson's children that he had promised not to and unfairly bringing up the 1993 molestation allegations.

"Granada has, by use of voice-overs, editing and the nature of the questions asked, treated me unfairly by giving viewers the impression that I have behaved inappropriately with children," Jackson alleged in his BSC complaint.

Jackson also complained that Bashir showed an interview with a young male friend of Jackson, a 12-year-old cancer survivor who has stayed overnight at Neverland with Jackson in his bedroom. The documentary showed the two holding hands through much of the interview.

Jackson's three children -- Prince Michael I, 5; Paris, 4; and Prince Michael II, an infant he has nicknamed "Blanket" -- also made a rare appearance on the program. Their faces were kept covered with masks and a scarf.

Prince Michael I and Paris are Jackson's children with his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe. He gave Bashir two explanations of who the infant's mother is, first describing her as a woman with whom he had a relationship but later describing her as a surrogate mother whom he has never met.

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