Michael Jackson believes he “won God’s smile of approval” for bringing youngsters to his Neverland ranch, he said in his first television interview since being indicted on child molestation charges.
The superstar, who is under a gag order during his trial in Santa Barbara County, didn’t directly proclaim his innocence in the interview scheduled to air Saturday.
But he described many of the news reports about him as “fiction” and said his celebrity made him a target.
“The bigger the star, the bigger the target. ... But truth always prevails,” Jackson told Fox News Channel’s “At Large w/ Geraldo Rivera” program.
Fox News on Thursday released excerpts of the interview. On Friday, Rivera told NBC’s “Today” that he believes Jackson will be acquitted, and criticized District Attorney Tom Sneddon for seemingly going to extremes to gather evidence against Jackson.
Rivera described Sneddon as “ruthless” and a “man on a mission” to convict Jackson.
“I am dedicated to giving him a fair trial. ... to make sure that the playing field is level and that people listen to the allegations specifically,” Rivera said.
“If it wasn’t Michael Jackson, reporters throughout this business would say: ‘Wait, this doesn’t sound right. This is illogical,”’ he said.
The interview, taped two weeks ago, was Jackson’s first since his April indictment on charges that he plied a boy, now 15, with alcohol and molested him at the ranch two years ago. Jackson also is accused of conspiracy to hold the boy’s family captive.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Jackson’s lawyers and prosecutors are scheduled to begin questioning potential jurors Monday.
Jackson said he designed Neverland as “a home for myself and my children,” and a place to do the things he never could as a child star in the Jackson Five.
“We couldn’t go to movie theaters. We couldn’t go to Disneyland. We couldn’t do all those fun things. We were on tour. We were working hard.”
“Other men have their Ferraris and their airplanes or helicopter or wherever they find their bliss,” Jackson said. “My bliss is in giving and sharing and having simple, innocent fun.”
Jackson said Neverland also is a place to visit for inner-city children “who haven’t seen the mountains, who haven’t been on a carousel, who haven’t pet a horse or a llama.”
“I feel I won God’s smile of approval, because I’m doing something that brings joy and happiness to other people.”