Michael Jackson Meets With Black Legislators, African Officials To Discuss International HIV/AIDS
Michael Jackson on Tuesday and Wednesday met with several black lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a proposed trip to Africa later this year, the Washington Post reports (Wiltz, Washington Post, 4/1). Jackson had requested to meet with the 39-member Congressional Black Caucus, but the caucus rejected his request to speak at its full meeting on Wednesday, saying it was "too busy," according to the AP/Washington Times (AP/Washington Times, 3/31). However, Jackson on Tuesday met in the offices of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) with several members of the CBC, including Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), according to the Washington Post (Wiltz, Washington Post, 3/31). In addition, Jackson on Wednesday attended a private meeting in the office of Jackson Lee with a few members of Congress and officials from 12 African countries (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 4/1). Jackson was in Washington to receive an award from the African Ambassadors' Spouses Association for his work on HIV/AIDS (BBC News, 3/31). Fattah said that Jackson is "one of the leading celebrities in the world who has actually used his celebrity status to help people" (Xinhua News/China View, 3/31). "I cannot imagine a greater asset to this fight against AIDS in Africa and helping us make good on President Bush's promises than to have Michael Jackson with us," Jackson Lee said (DeBose, Washington Times, 4/1). However, several caucus members, who spoke to the AP/Times on the condition of anonymity, said that there was no advantage for them to associate with Jackson by holding a high-profile meeting with him. They added that Jackson has never donated money to their causes nor asked to speak with them before now, according to the AP/Times (AP/Washington Times, 3/31).
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday that Jackson wants to develop with other artists projects similar to "We are the World" and "raise some funds, again, via music, doing something similar to what Oprah Winfrey is doing now over in South Africa." Meeks said he wants to do whatever he can and work with whomever he can to "eradicate" HIV/AIDS, adding that "just the attention" that "anyone can bring" to the disease is "extremely important" (O'Brien, "American Morning," CNN, 3/31). Although Jackson did not speak to reporters, he released a statement to black lawmakers saying, "What I want you to know is that whatever I can do to assist you in your fight, I will do" (AP/Washington Times, 3/31). Jackson also has proposed heading a trip to Africa to better leverage his "global personality" and bring attention to the pandemic, according to the Post. However, his ability to travel depends on his court requirements in California, Jackson Lee said, according to the Post (Washington Post, 4/1). Jackson is awaiting trial in Santa Barbara for nine counts of lewd acts with a child and administering an intoxicant to a minor to facilitate abuse, the New York Times reports (Janofsky, New York Times, 4/1).
CBSNews.com on Wednesday reported on Jackson's visit. The segment includes comments from Fattah (Okita, CBSNews.com, 3/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, CNN Wednesday broadcast Jackson Lee's introduction of Jackson before the CBC (Phillips, CNN, 3/31). A complete transcript of the segment is available online.