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Obama lauds Jackson’s ‘extraordinary gifts’

President Barack Obama called Michael Jackson a brilliant performer whose talents were paired with a tragic personal life.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The "King of Pop" had a fan in the White House.

President Barack Obama described himself as a longtime follower of Michael Jackson, the legendary performer who died June 25 at age 50.

"I grew up on his music — still have all his stuff on my iPod," Obama said in an AP interview Thursday, adding that Jackson "will go down in history as one of our greatest entertainers."

At the time of his death, the pop entertainer was preparing a series of comeback concerts to overcome years of sexual scandal and financial calamity — a troubled history the president acknowledged without naming specifics.

"I think that his brilliance as a performer also was paired with a tragic and, in many ways, sad personal life," Obama said.

He expressed pleasure that the public is celebrating Jackson for his talents, instead of dwelling on his personal tragedies.

"I'm glad to see that he is being remembered primarily for the great joy that he brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts as an entertainer."

The president said he did not see any controversy in the fact that he did not issue a formal public statement upon Jackson's death, and said he was unaware of any dissatisfaction in the black community with his response.

"I know a lot of people in the black community," Obama said. "I haven't heard that."

Obama added that Thursday's interview was the first time he had been asked about Jackson's death.