Contrary to today's assertion in Page Six, this column broke the story about the Nation of Islam's influence over Michael Jackson. The item ran in the afternoon of Dec. 17, and it set off a firestorm that has not yet ended.
The New York Post column, citing "the Fox News Web site," picked it up and ran its own version on Dec. 18. That version erroneously stated that Jackson had joined the Nation of Islam the night before, something this column never even speculated. Jackson, though under the sway of the NOI, has not joined the group as of this morning.
Alas, I was unable to correct the notions set forth in today's paper because I was in transit all day Friday returning from holiday in London. You wonder what "calls were not returned" means. It means calls were not received until after 8 p.m. Friday night.
Page Six would like to suggest that there is now a media feud between this column and the New York Times' Sharon Waxman. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not even know Waxman. I wish her well. She might be interested to know, however, that the very same information that formed the basis of her Saturday story about the business history of Nation of Islam chief of staff Leonard Muhammad was distributed to this reporter as well early last week.
What didn't come as part of the package (which I suspect must have been widely disseminated to journalists) was a further story, also from the Chicago Tribune, and many other stories about the Nation of Islam's questionable contracts with the U.S. government to provide security in federally funded housing projects. Tenants complained about the treatment they received by these "security" guards, and eventually the contracts were terminated. One wonders if this is the kind of security the NOI is providing at Neverland.
Calls to Muhammad made by this reporter several times yesterday seemed to go through, only to be clicked off before actually starting. So I was unable to ask him about Waxman's article or the housing authority scandals.
More tomorrow on the actual Jackson case, which we've somehow all lost sight of ...