WASHINGTON – Michael Jackson (search) is promoting the idea of staging a concert tour in Africa to help raise money to fight AIDS — if a California court where he faces child molestation charges will let him.
The entertainer said little at a Capitol Hill news conference where he was the main attraction, but Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (search), D-Texas, elaborated on details of the possible tour, saying it would be held in late May or early June.
"This man is going to lead the global effort" against AIDS (search), said Rep. Bobby Rush (search), D-Ill., as Jackson stood to his right, lightly bowing his head and smiling softly to a throng of reporters and photographers.
Jackson Lee said that during a meeting in her office, Jackson was invited by ambassadors from several African nations to tour their countries and help raise money for AIDS prevention, treatment and education programs.
Whether the tour will take place is in doubt, though. Jackson surrendered his passport after he was booked in November on child molestation charges and will have to ask a judge for permission to travel outside of the country.
Jackson has pleaded innocent to the seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Despite the charges, Jackson was met by loud screams, applause and chants of "Michael, Michael" from fans who waited to get a glimpse of him as he was hustled by bodyguards through the narrow hallway of a House office building.
Wearing a satiny red jacket, embroidered across the chest and sleeves with silver sequin brocade and bearing purple-sequined military-style stripes on the shoulders, Jackson met for more than an hour behind closed doors with a small group of black lawmakers and the African ambassadors.
Later, his only words at a brief news conference were "That wasn't loud enough," when plans for a concert tour in Africa were announced and met with mild applause.
Jackson was scheduled later to visit patients at Walter Reed Hospital, where many soldiers wounded in Iraq are being treated. An association of spouses of African ambassadors is scheduled to present him with a humanitarian award Thursday for his contributions to fighting AIDS in Africa.
While fans in Washington eagerly welcomed Jackson, leaders of the 38-member Congressional Black Caucus were less enthusiastic. They had turned down his request to attend its meeting Wednesday, saying they were too busy dealing with legislative issues affecting black Americans.