NEW YORK – Michael Jackson apologized Tuesday for dangling his young child off a hotel balcony in Berlin.
"I made a terrible mistake," he said in a statement. "I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children."
Dozens of gaping fans in the street below watched in shock as Jackson briefly held the boy, who had a towel over his head, with one arm around his waist out the fourth-floor window of the luxurious Adlon Hotel.
The child, wearing a baby-blue jumper, was the reclusive singer's third and youngest, Prince Michael II, according to Antje Sigesmund, a spokeswoman for the Bambi entertainment awards ceremony which Jackson is attending in Berlin.
The act stunned some people who saw it transmitted on television. Some people who knew Jackson said he had gotten carried away when fans asked to see the baby.
"He brought him out to show him off to the fans and he had the face covered because he didn't want cameras to see it," Flo Anthony, Jackson's longtime friend and editor of Black Elegance magazine, told Fox News. "However, that was a grave mistake ... But I don't think Michael was thinking maliciously ... He wasn't aiming to toss that baby over the railing."
Little is known about Prince Michael II. People magazine reported in August that he was six months old. The magazine, citing an anonymous friend, said the boy was not adopted but did not identify the mother.
Despite believing that Jackson's motivations were pure, Anthony said she could not defend his actions. "I'm not going to sit here and say that's not disturbing, because it is disturbing."
Several scenes of Jackson's visit to the German capital — including the display of his son — were featured on national primetime German news, a sign of the King of Pop's enduring popularity in Europe.
The Chicago-based advocacy group Prevent Child Abuse America criticized Jackson's behavior, though it said the boy did not appear to be harmed.
"It is a painful reminder that even the most well-intentioned among us sometimes act in ways that put children in danger of being abused or neglected," said A. Sidney Johnson, president and CEO of the group.
There was no immediate comment from any representatives for Jackson.
Fans had gathered outside the hotel, just opposite Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate, and security had to remove some from the lobby. Several carried banners, including one that said "Save the Kids," with drawings of children's faces, a reference to Jackson's philanthropy.
Another said, "Really good to see you."
Jackson, wearing a bright red shirt, smiled and waved to the fans, at one point tossing a small white towel to the crowd below. The singer then went inside and retrieved the toddler, using one arm to hold the boy out over the iron rail of the hotel.
Fans cheered as the pop star appeared with the child, but Jackson quickly retreated into his hotel room without making any statement.
The singer also has two children with ex-wife Debbie Rowe: a 5-year-old boy — also named Prince Michael — and a 4-year-old girl, Paris. The couple divorced in 1999.
In Berlin, Jackson was taking a break from a California courtroom where he testified last week in a $21 million lawsuit claiming he backed out of concerts. He arrived in Berlin to pick up a Bambi for life achievement Thursday.
He is to attend a benefit for homeless children and a charity auction where he will put a jacket and hat on the block Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.