They were the two most famous African-Americans in the world: President Barack Obama and Michael Jackson.
But when millions of people paused this week to watch Jackson’s memorial service in Los Angeles, the president was about as far away as he could get. That President Obama was in Moscow at a summit — negotiating weapons limits and other agreements — was obviously no sleight to the late entertainer. But even before Obama left the country, the White House seemed to be keeping its distance. There was no public gesture from the president’s office when Jackson died, no official tribute to one of the most remarkable Americans of our time. The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said Obama had “written to the family and has shared his feelings with the family privately.” When the president was pressed by reporters for a public statement, there was careful nuance in his words. “He became a core part of our culture,” the president said in a July 7 interview with CNN ahead of the Jackson memorial service. “His extraordinary talent and music mixed with big dose of tragedy and difficulty in his private life.” Did Barack Obama strike the right tone in his understated response to Michael Jackson’s death Sound Off below
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The “big dose of tragedy and difficulty” was a gentle phrase to address unproven allegations of child abuse, the odd changes Jackson made to his appearance and the still unexplained circumstances of his death. Republican Congressman Peter King wasn’t as delicate about the deceased. “This guy was a pervert, he was a child molester,” King said. “I just think that we’re too politically correct, no one wants to stand up and say we don’t need Michael Jackson.” But Jackson had his defenders. Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee praised him at his funeral and alluded to the problems in his past. “As members of the United States Congress, we understand the Constitution, we understand laws, and we know that people are innocent until proven otherwise.” Obama apparently didn’t want to be part of the debate. He said a few words, offered his sympathies and left Michael Jackson to the people who wanted to mourn him.