Feb. 6, 2003 -- Michael Jackson, who was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy a decade ago but denied it, says in a new documentary that he still allows children to sleep over at his California ranch, Neverland.
"Whenever kids come here they always want to stay with me," he said.
Jackson allowed the British crew to film him with a 12-year-old boy who said he and his brother had spent a night in the singer's bedroom.
"Why can't you share your bed?" Jackson said, holding hands with the 12-year-old and letting him rest his head on his shoulder. "The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone."
The boy, who says he met Jackson after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, said when he asked to spend the night in the singer's bedroom, Jackson gave him and his brother the bed and slept on the floor himself.
In a later interview, Jackson also said he slept on the floor that night, but he added, "I have slept in a bed with many children," including former child actor Macaulay Culkin together with his siblings.
He said there was nothing sexual involved: "We go to sleep. I put the fireplace on. I give them hot milk, you know, we have cookies. It's very charming. It's very sweet. It's what the whole world should do."
The documentary aired on British television on Monday and is being broadcast exclusively in the United States on ABC's 20/20, on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. The interviews were conducted by British journalist Martin Bashir, who is well known for a 1995 interview in which Diana, Princess of Wales, admitted being unfaithful to Prince Charles.
Rare Look at Jackson's Own Children — in Masks
Jackson also allowed the British crew to film him with his own three children: 5-year-old Prince Michael I (who is known as Prince), 4-year-old Paris, and his infant son Prince Michael II, the baby he notoriously dangled from the balcony of a Berlin hotel in November.
All three children's faces were covered during filming, the two older ones in feathered masks, the baby in a green veil. Jackson told the filmmakers he never lets his children be seen in public without masks, in order to conceal their identity.
Prince and Paris were born during Jackson's three-year marriage to his dermatology nurse, Debbie Rowe. The children live with Jackson at Neverland, his 3,000-acre ranch three hours north of Los Angeles and do not see their mother. According to Bashir, 5-year-old Prince told him firmly, "I haven't got a mommy."
Jackson said Rowe prefers that they live with him. He said that when they wed in 1996, she understood that he wanted children from the marriage. "I used to walk around holding baby dolls ... because I wanted children so badly," Jackson said, adding that Rowe wanted to bear children for him "as a present." It was a "lovely gesture," he said. Rowe was seven months pregnant when they wed.
Wants Kids to Have a Normal Life
When Paris had a difficult birth in 1998, Jackson said, "I was so anxious to get her home that after cutting the cord — I hate to say this — I snatched at her and just went home with all the placenta all over her... Got her in a towel and ran." He said the doctors — and his wife, who had to stay in the hospital — said it was fine for him to take the child. He said he didn't remember how long it was before Rowe saw her daughter: "Oh, I don't know technically ... I kind of forget."
Jackson said he tries to give the children a normal upbringing, but can't send them to a normal school because they would be hounded by paparazzi and singled out by the teachers for being the children of a celebrity. "It's all in how you shape and sculpt and mold their world," he said.
He said the children were surrounded by women at the ranch — including a full-time staff of nannies — and have "a great time."
New Son Was Born to a Surrogate Mother
Ending months of speculation about his third child, Jackson said that the boy was born to a surrogate mother. When he first showed the boy in public, at a Siegfried and Roy magic show in Las Vegas in July, he reportedly told friends the boy was 6 months old but did not say who his mother was.
Jackson told Bashir in one interview that he had had a secret relationship with the mother, but he later said, "I used a surrogate mother and my own sperm cells," adding, "I had my own sperm cells in my other two children. They are all my children."
He said he calls the boy "Blanket," after a term he uses with his family and employees for to mean loving and protecting.
He said he did not know the surrogate mother and it did not matter to him who she was as long as she was healthy, intelligent and had good vision. He said the mother's race was also unimportant to him, though he added that she is black. He said he could not identify the woman because of "a contractual agreement."
Denies Putting Baby in Danger
The British crew was on the scene just after Jackson hung his son out of the hotel window in Berlin. The next morning, after a public outcry over his behavior, he defended his actions. "We were waving to thousands of fans down below," he explained, bouncing his son rapidly on his knees as he fed him from a bottle. "They were chanting they wanted to see my child, and I was kind enough to let them see. I was doing something out of innocence."
He said it was absurd to suggest that he would try to harm his children or any children. "The media's wrong. I love my children. I was holding my son tight and strong. Why would I throw a baby off the balcony? That's the dumbest, stupidest story I ever heard."
When Jackson took the two older children to the Berlin Zoo later that day, the trip turned hectic, with the family's bodyguards trying to fend off dozens of paparazzi and shield the children with umbrellas, as fans chanted, "F— the press." Jackson seemed oblivious, though he later agreed that the day was difficult for the children. However, he said, he couldn't take the chance of letting them go out in public without him: "I'd rather it be my fault if something happens."
Jackson said he was considering adopting more children. "I'm thinking about adopting two kids from each continent around the world. That is my dream," he said.
Children at Neverland
The 12-year-old who said he spent the night in Jackson's room said he had met Jackson two years earlier and believed the singer's friendship and support had helped him recover from what doctors had said was terminal cancer. He said his parents were happy to let him spend time with Jackson.
Asked how he responds to people who say it is inappropriate for a 44-year-old man to be sharing a bed with a child, Jackson said: "I feel sorry for them because that's judging someone who just wants to really help people." In a later interview he called it "a beautiful thing," saying he was just a grown-up who was "trying to help heal a child."
Jackson said he never invites children to sleep in his room, but that if they say they want to, he tells them to check with their parents. When Macaulay Culkin and his brothers and sisters were younger, Jackson said, "we would just jam in the bed, you know?"
Jackson said he had been "shocked" by the allegations from a 13-year-old boy in 1993 that the singer had had a sexual relationship with him. He said he reached a financial settlement with the boy's family — reportedly for millions of dollars — because he did not want a drawn-out legal battle. The boy did not testify and prosecutors did not bring criminal charges against Jackson.
As Bashir questioned him further about the 1993 allegation, Jackson became visibly upset, and gave a tearful assessment of the condition many American children find themselves in. "People don't even eat with their fathers any more, or their mothers. The family bond has been broken. It's an outcry for attention [when] kids are going to school with guns. They want love, they want to be touched, they want to be held.... I'm just very sensitive to their pain."
He went on: "Like I said before and I'll say it a million times: I'm not afraid to say it. If there were no children on this Earth, if someone announced all kids were dead, I would jump off the balcony immediately. I'm done. I'm done."