LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson (search), facing child-molestation (search) allegations, acknowledged he has reached financial settlements with people in the past to avoid the embarrassment of going to court, but added he would never harm a child.
The six-paragraph statement was released hours before "Dateline NBC" broadcast a lengthy report alleging that the entertainer paid $2 million to the son of an employee at his Neverland Ranch (search) in 1990 to avoid a child-molestation accusation.
"I have spent my entire life helping millions of children across the world. I would never harm a child. It is unfortunate that some individuals have seen fit to come forward and make a complaint that is completely false," Jackson said Friday.
Although he made no direct reference to the broadcast, Jackson said he felt the need to "respond to untruths and sensationalism" and questioned "the timing and motive of this report."
The 46-year-old entertainer is fighting charges that he molested a boy in 2003. Jackson, who is free on $3 million bail, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent, and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He is scheduled to face trial beginning Jan. 31.
"Years ago, I settled with certain individuals because I was concerned about my family and the media scrutiny that would have ensued if I fought the matter in court," he said.
"These people wanted to exploit my concern for children by threatening to destroy what I believe in and what I do. I have been a vulnerable target for those who want money."
Jackson was being investigated by Santa Barbara County authorities in 1993 when he reached a settlement with his accuser, paying him a sum reported at $15 million to $20 million. He was never charged in that case.
"Dateline NBC" reported that in 1990 Jackson allegedly made a $2 million payment to the son of an employee at his Neverland Ranch. The boy was not the same one Jackson settled with in 1993, according to the report.
Former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas told "Dateline NBC" authorities learned of the 1990 case during their 1993 investigation.