Rep. Peter King and Rev. Al Sharpton Debate Michael Jackson Race Controversy With O'Reilly

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight: the growing racial controversy over Michael Jackson. While millions of Americans have watched the coverage of Jackson's death, millions of Americans are also fed up with the glorification of the man. Leading that charge is Congressman Peter King of New York.


REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: This guy was a pervert, he was a child molester, he was a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us as a country? I think it's too politically correct. None of us want to stand up and say we don't need Michael Jackson.


O'REILLY: Well, joining us from Washington is the controversial Congressman King. All right, now after you said that, Congressman Bobby Rush from Illinois and Hazel Dukes and NAACP officials implied you're a racist. What say you?

Click here to watch Rep. Peter King in the No Spin Zone!

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: That is absolute nonsense. I stand by everything I said. And there's absolutely nothing racist or racial in any of the words I used. You know, Bill, I was on your show over seven years ago. I was the first Catholic politician in the United States to call for the resignation of Cardinal Law as archbishop of Boston because he had failed to go after the child molesters in the clergy in Boston. This past weekend, Bob Herbert of The New York Times, an African-American columnist, said that behind the facade of Michael Jackson is the horror of child abuse. I don't see how pointing a person's horrible record when it comes to misusing and abusing children, how that becomes racial in any way.

And also to say this as an ironic point, on Sunday The New York Times editorial, which very seldom The Times has something good to say about me, but they praised me and John McCain because for five years we've had a bill in Congress, which looks like it is going to go through this year, to give a presidential pardon to Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion. And it was doing that because his prosecution was racially biased against him. It was racism and John McCain and I have spoken out against that. I certainly get no votes in my district for that. So I think, you know, my record is clear. And I just think that people who are raising this issue are absolutely phony. It's really wrong.

O'REILLY: It is wrong. I agree. I've known you for a long time. You're not a racist. And Mr. Rush and Miss Dukes are cheap for playing that race card against you. But the timing of what you said — what you said was harsh. It was harsh. And you know, the man just died. He has people who love him. In hindsight, might you have waited a week?

KING: No, Bill, because this had already gone on for nine or 10 days. And I guess what put me over the edge was I spent the whole Fourth of July with veterans, and cops, firefighters, different parades in (INAUDIBLE). As you would say, being with the folks. And there was such a resentment building up. People saying why is this guy getting all this adulation? OK, he was a good singer, he was a good dancer, but why is he getting all this coverage? Why has the nation stopped for Michael Jackson? So I was — I went to an American legion hall on Sunday. I was with somebody on my staff. We had a video camera. And I said hey, I'm going to say what's on my mind. We posted it. And the reason I was harsh if you want to call it that is I had come through this 10-day cacophony of glorification, this onslaught where he was being made out to be a saint or a hero or whatever. I wanted to get right to the point. That's why I stripped aside the psychobabble. This man was a child molester, and he was. By his own admission, he slept with young boys. I mean, you know, you walk to an enabler and you say if grown man sleeps with young boys in his bed, is he a pervert? Ninety-nine out of 100 people would say yes, black, white, or any color.

O'REILLY: All right, let me play devil's advocate here.

KING: Sure.

O'REILLY: Let me play devil's advocate here, because I want to be fair. And I think that you know that we are fair here.

KING: Right.

O'REILLY: Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges. He did settle a civil suit, but settling something doesn't mean you're admitting anything. It just means you want to get it out, all right, you want to get rid of it. The people who know Jackson well say he is a product of an arrested development. That he is a child, or was a child in his own mind. And I think that speaks to the way he conducted his life. He was not an adult in an emotional way. He himself says that he slept with children. He admits it. Only because he loved them and wanted to be close to them. There was no sexuality involved. That's what Jackson is on the record as saying. So is it fair to say if he's not convicted in a court of law, is it fair to say he was a child molester?

KING: Bill, I would say an adult male who sleeps with young boys is a child molester. If nothing else, he's molesting and abusing their psyche. How are those children going to possibly grow up normal after spending nights in bed with Michael Jackson? So — and I would say also there's not a daycare center in the United States that would be allowed to hire him. Any one of my critics, would they allow their child or their grandchild to be in the same room with Michael Jackson, to be alone with Michael Jackson?

You know, again, we have to strip away a lot of it. There's a difference between a criminal conviction and admitted conduct. I went back and I read also columns — those articles by Maureen North detailing the way he had all these alarms in his bedroom and his mansion. And he had those alarms on when he was with these young boys. It was a deviant lifestyle.

And listen, if Michael Jackson had died, it got one or two days of coverage, that would have been fine. But the way it went on and on with this wall to wall, round the clock coverage, and at the same time we have Americans dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have the president in Russia trying to negotiate arms control, nuclear arms control. To me it was a real reflection on the culture of our country. And I really, you know, you talk about a culture war, Bill. This to me — I think the media and the political class and the elite class failed. They have — our culture — Pat Moynihan spoke about defining deviancy down. It can't be much more down than what Michael Jackson did with young boys. And yet we exalted that over the last 10 days or two weeks. It was wrong.

O'REILLY: Why do you think the media played him as a hero?

KING: Perhaps it was political correctness. They get caught up in this Hollywood swirl. And it just — it sort of fed on itself. I guess no one wanted to just acknowledge the fact of what his record was all about. And so I just think it was really a terrible failure by the media, by the elite. And I was saying what millions of Americans really felt.

O'REILLY: All right. Thanks for being a stand up guy and coming in, Congressman. We appreciate it.

KING: Thank you, Bill.

O'REILLY: Next on the rundown, Al Sharpton will reply.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story, the racial component in the Michael Jackson situation. Yesterday at the memorial service in Los Angeles, Al Sharpton said this:


REV. AL SHARPTON: Michael made us love each other. Michael taught us to stand with each other. I want his three children to know there wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with.


O'REILLY: And with us now is Reverend Sharpton. Nothing strange about Michael Jackson? All that plastic surgery, altering his face and all of that, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on prescription drugs, in vitro on white kids, you know, when you're a black man. Nothing strange about him?

Click here to watch Rev. Al Sharpton in the No Spin Zone!

REV. AL SHARPTON: Well, no, I think first of all…

O'REILLY: You don't think any of that's strange?

SHARPTON: First of all, you could probably have a large percentage of Americans that have had plastic surgery.

O'REILLY: Not like that.

SHARPTON: Well, maybe he had more resources. Maybe a lot of this is exaggerated. Let's deal with the issue. The issue is that it is totally irresponsible for a lawmaker to disregard the law. Charges were made against Michael Jackson, a mostly non black jury, you talked about 9 out of 10, let's try 12 out of 12 in a jury said he was not guilty of child molestation. That's all. And it's reckless and irresponsible to say he's a child molester, as it would be for me to come on here and say Dick Cheney shoots his friends hunting.


SHARPTON: Now let me finish.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, no, that's not…

SHARPTON: A friend was shot…

O'REILLY: I challenge…


O'REILLY: I challenged the congressman.

SHARPTON: But that's the only…

O'REILLY: I challenged the congressman on that very point, as you just heard. But that's not a racial issue.

SHARPTON: I didn't say anything about race.

O'REILLY: OK, but Bobby Rush and Hazel Dukes are saying because the congressman criticized Jackson, that he's a racist. I mean, that's not right.

SHARPTON: I think you said they implied — I don't know how they implied it.

O'REILLY: How they implied it was they said well, this is Jim Crow stuff.


O'REILLY: That's an implication there.

SHARPTON: I'm saying it's reckless and it is totally irresponsible…

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: ...for a lawmaker to say that a jury…

O'REILLY: How do you — before you…

SHARPTON: ...means nothing. Let's not talk about nine out of 10.

O'REILLY: The jury…

SHARPTON: Talk about 12 jurors…

O'REILLY: The jury…

SHARPTON: ...that says he's not a child molester.

O'REILLY: That is correct.

SHARPTON: All right.

O'REILLY: That is correct.

SHARPTON: That's all.

O'REILLY: OK. But how do you describe an adult male single admittedly bringing young children into his bed to sleep with him?

SHARPTON: What I don't…

O'REILLY: How do you — wait. How do you describe it?

SHARPTON: What I don't describe it is something that a jury has already said it was not.

O'REILLY: But how do you describe it?

SHARPTON: Whether I say Michael was — had arrested development, whether I said Michael dealt with children in different ways or not is immaterial. We're talking about a person that votes on laws saying that I don't care what a jury says. I'm going to impose a criminal accusation anyway. That's irresponsible.

O'REILLY: But you're bringing a very narrow standard to the definition…

SHARPTON: I'm addressing…

O'REILLY: ...of Michael Jackson.

SHARPTON: ...what he said.

O'REILLY: No, you're bringing a narrow…

SHARPTON: The congressman makes a criminal allegation that is totally untrue…

O'REILLY: All right, and people…

SHARPTON: ...totally been answered.

O'REILLY: And people can make their minds up about that.

SHARPTON: Well, that's all.

O'REILLY: But you, Reverend Sharpton, are bringing a very narrow definition to Michael Jackson. You got up there in front of the world yesterday, and you portrayed him as another Martin Luther King Jr. He brought us all together.


O'REILLY: Come on.

SHARPTON: First of all, people can go to my Facebook page.

O'REILLY: That's hyperbole.

SHARPTON: You can go to my Facebook and see the whole speech. What I said was…

O'REILLY: I saw the whole speech.

SHARPTON: What I said was that Michael Jackson, in his career, pop culture, broke down racial barriers. First black to get MTV to run black videos, his. First black to get people like Rolling Stone to have blacks on the cover. These are facts. This is not my guess. That "We Are the World" was the first time a superstar got other superstars to help African hunger. This is a fact. You may not like it, Mr. King may not like it, but those are facts. And I think that for me to say that there is for you and anyone else to raise allegations about his personal life doesn't answer the facts of what he did. He brought people together. This is as irresponsible as someone saying we're going to honor President X in history, and I say but President X…

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: his personal life did so and so. What does it have to do with the fact that he was president?

O'REILLY: I heard — did you…

SHARPTON: Did Michael Jackson not do the things I just outlined?

O'REILLY: Yeah, but they're not important.

SHARPTON: Well, then that's why…

O'REILLY: They're not important.

SHARPTON: They're not important?

O'REILLY: No, what MTV does isn't important. What Rolling Stone magazine does is not important.

SHARPTON: It is important to the millions of people that bought his records.

O'REILLY: And that's OK.

SHARPTON: He is the top record seller in the world.

O'REILLY: Good. Look, you used to work for James Brown.

SHARPTON: And those people…

O'REILLY: You used to work for James Brown.

SHARPTON: I didn't work for James Brown. James Brown and I had a family member…

O'REILLY: All right, but he was a pioneer.

SHARPTON: He was. And so was Michael Jackson. And there were allegations against James Brown.

O'REILLY: Answer me this. I heard a lot of people yesterday — and I think you were one of them, but correct me if I'm wrong — saying that Michael Jackson was some kind of African-American icon.

SHARPTON: Yeah, he was.

O'REILLY: Well, then why did he have white children?

SHARPTON: What does that have to do?

O'REILLY: What does that have to do? He chose to have in vitro by a white woman and a white man. What does that have to do?

SHARPTON: So in order for him to be an African-American icon…

O'REILLY: An icon? An icon?

SHARPTON: Wait a minute.

O'REILLY: Why would he have that choice? Why?

SHARPTON: Because he — I'm trying to answer you. Would you like an answer from an African-American?

O'REILLY: I would. Yes.

SHARPTON: Because he broke all records. He changed music. He brought people together.

O'REILLY: No, the kids, the kids.

SHARPTON: Well, we didn't say he was an African-American — father of African-American children. We said he was an African-American icon.

O'REILLY: An icon? But why would he have white kids then?

SHARPTON: What he did in his personal life and his personal — has nothing to do with his iconic status.

O'REILLY: It doesn't?

SHARPTON: If I said that Bill O'Reilly has a hot television show, does that mean I have the right to go to your house and say but how come his kids chew bubblegum?

O'REILLY: But no, it's not a contest.

SHARPTON: You were the other…

O'REILLY: If you were — look, let me ask you this and I will give you the last word.


O'REILLY: If you were just to say that Michael Jackson was an extraordinary entertainer that broke down entertainment barriers, I would agree with you 100 percent. But you went farther than that.


O'REILLY: You put him up as some kind of civil rights hero, and it doesn't wash.

SHARPTON: And I made — it washes with the millions upon millions of people…

O'REILLY: Doesn't wash with the facts.

SHARPTON: You said you was going to give me the last word.

O'REILLY: I did.

SHARPTON: The fact is he sold more records than anyone in history. The fact is he broke every record. And you and Mr. King with these imaginary millions that are against him can't document it. I can document the millions that was with Mr. Jackson. I can only see you and Mr. King in some undocumented people that are upset that he holds…

O'REILLY: I'm not upset about anything.


O'REILLY: I want to put the man in proper context.

SHARPTON: And the proper context…

O'REILLY: O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy.

SHARPTON: We're not talking about…

O'REILLY: He's not a black icon.

SHARPTON: ...a game here. We're talking about a fact that he broke those barriers.

O'REILLY: That's entertainment.

SHARPTON: And the barriers…

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: ...were very important. And other people, because he broke those barriers…

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: ...are able to use those means now to enhance…

O'REILLY: We got it. Now just like Congressman King, you're a standup guy.

SHARPTON: And just like…

O'REILLY: … for coming in. I appreciate that.

SHARPTON: …Mr. King — I appreciate you letting me come in.

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