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Al Sharpton on Michael Jackson's detractors

  • Story Highlights
  • The Rev. Al Sharpton says people are wrong to attack Michael Jackson's legacy
  • Says singer wasn't perfect, but used his talent to shatter racial barriers
  • Notes Jackson's memorial was like that of a head of state, more viewed than pope's
  • Sharpton: Jackson's family is more close-knit than people think
By Wendy L. Wilson
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Rev. Al Sharpton greets Michael Jackson's mother Katherine Jackson, and daughter, Paris, at memorial.

Rev. Al Sharpton greets Michael Jackson's mother Katherine Jackson, and daughter, Paris, at memorial.

(ESSENCE) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton has been a pillar of support for the Jackson family since the moment the world found out Michael passed away. Sharpton is one of the few people to have a close relationship with the King of Pop and the man they both revered, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.

ESSENCE.com sat down with Sharpton to talk about his connection to these two incredible men, how the Jackson family is coping after participating in the most watched memorial service in recent history, and his thoughts about the naysayers who continue to mar Michael's legacy.

ESSENCE: You had the unique opportunity to be close to two musical icons: Michael Jackson and James Brown. Were they alike in any way?

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: They had some similarities, like both of them were very determined men. I can remember times when both of them faced challenges and responded to those challenges with pain from being disappointed by friends who they feel abandoned and betrayed them but neither one of them ever showed a lack of determination or conviction that they were born to do what they were meant to do. I never saw either of them at the point where they felt they had to give up. Essence: Suzanne de Passe remembers Michael Jackson

In fact, the more adversity, the more determined they became. They were very similar in that way. I remember when Michael was having the fight with Sony over his catalog. He talked to me about how some Hollywood big shots weren't in his corner anymore. These were people he had done so many things for but now they weren't returning his phone calls. He would just say, "I'm going to beat them, Rev."

ESSENCE: What do you say to those people like Fox's Bill O'Reilly or New York Congressman Peter King who have publically said that Michael Jackson doesn't deserve the accolades he's currently receiving?

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SHARPTON: I debated Bill O'Reilly on his show last night and he, ironically, said that Michael Jackson wasn't a pioneer like James Brown. I said, that's funny because you attacked James Brown when he died too. Michael Jackson has sold more records than anyone else in history. This man made the VH1's and the MTV's of the world. He made the cover of Rolling Stone countless times. These are facts. These are not accolades that are debatable. Essence: Highlights of Jackson's life

No one is saying Michael Jackson and James Brown didn't have their flaws. What we are saying is what they achieved allowed for barriers to be broken down on our behalf. To tell us that we shouldn't celebrate facts is to tell us that we must embrace this supremacist fantasy and I don't think we should do that.

ESSENCE: Do you think that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee will get the resolution passed to memorialize Michael Jackson's memory as an American legend, musical icon and world humanitarian? She's getting some flack from some politicians.

SHARPTON: I think she will, because if she doesn't get it passed on the first time, there will be so much political pressure that they will have to pass it. Look at the reaction! Michael's funeral ...more people watched it than the Pope's funeral. That's not just Black people.

All the Bill O'Reillys and Peter Kings did not dampen the outpouring of love all over the world. It was unprecedented and that's why I believe this will pass. Just like every network ended up covering his funeral as if he was a head of state, at the end of the day, the people have said that Michael Jackson deserves all of this.

ESSENCE: How is the family doing now that the public memorial is completed?

SHARPTON: They are strong and standing together. This is certainly devastating but they are a closer knit family than people think and have gone through crisis before. They are helping each other through this. I admire their strength and their bond. They know that I'm always there for moral support. We've always had that type of relationship and we always will.

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