June 30th, 2009
11:58 PM ET

The Michael Jackson war room

Producer Chuck Hadad sits with Rev. Al Sharpton in the office of Sharpton's Harlem headquarters.

Editor's Note: AC360° Producer Chuck Hadad tagged along with Rev. Al Sharpton as he planned and attended today's memorial honoring Michael Jackson at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. Here are some snapshots from the day.

Chuck Hadad
AC360° Producer

Right now, I'm riding shotgun with the ringmaster of the Michael Jackson media circus... Actually, to be more exact, I'm riding in the backseat.

We're on our way to the Apollo Theater in Reverend Al Sharpton's SUV and "the Rev," as his staff and others call him, has allowed 360° virtually unfettered access to every behind the scenes meeting, every phone call, every Facebook message, every text message and even every tweet.

With a story as fast-moving as the mystery and drama over Michael Jackson's death, managing this circus is a full-time job.

We started with Sharpton at dawn after he'd landed on a red-eye flight back from LA. He was on his way to do a segment with "Good Morning America," the first of 7 interviews before noon.

Sharpton has fielded calls from Jackson family attorney L. Londell McMillan on how to handle media questions about the custody of Jackson's kids and texted Spike Lee about today's tribute at the Apollo Theater.

Critics of Sharpton's involvement in Michael Jackson's case have called him an opportunist at best and at worse, well, this is a family website.

When I asked Sharpton about the criticism and why his time wouldn't be better spent lending his fame to a person or cause that isn't already dominating the headlines, he sounded a familiar refrain: it is important to secure the legacy of Jackson as not only a musical icon but civil rights icon.

But it goes beyond that. Sharpton says he's like the campaign manager of a candidate in the throes of a heated election, with both delicate and inflammatory issues to be managed, including controversies over allegations that Jackson abused prescription drugs, to his meaning of his will, to the custody of his children. In all these stories, the message needs to be managed.

Sharpton says he's working not only to get Michael Jackson his due, but to help the Jackson family navigate the storm created by Michael's death.

What's your take on it all?

Al Sharpton on his way to the Apollo Theater.

Al Sharpton and company host his daily radio show inside the Apollo Theater.

Al Sharpton and Spike Lee do some glad-handing outside the Apollo Theater.

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Larry

    The 2 revs just follow the $$, hoping to get some of it to pay their salaries.

    July 1, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  2. puggles

    Even funnier. I recall reports somewhere that Michael Jackson converted to Islam not so long ago.

    July 1, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  3. Kim C

    Me, my family and co-workers are all so tired of seeing Al Sharpton being interviewed about this tragedy. We are sick of him sticking himself into the middle of everything as if he is truly the person that should be in the spotlight with regards to Michael Jackson AND sick of the media for treating him like a legitimate resource. How did Sharpton become so important to this story anyway? Has he found a new niche for himself soaking up the spot light when a celebrity passes away? I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he travels with the motorcade to Neverland just as he traveled with James Brown's body. I am so irritated by his obvious desire to be in the limelight that I now change the channel every time he appears.

    July 1, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  4. md

    i cant belive we are focusing on one person dying, there are hundreds of people dying in in iraq and in the world, and they dont get this much attetion. Also mj wasnt the only celeb that died this week;. what about billy mays, pharra, and ed. also mj wasnt a hero Only people that can create change is a hero, like obama, and soildiers. We just need to remember that he is dead and we cant bring him back


    July 1, 2009 at 7:24 am |
  5. janette

    Al has a radio show but what does Jesse do besides
    run his mouth? They both need to get somewhere and
    get a real job and stop bumpin' their gums! Michael
    had a real job and worked hard for many years.It's
    time they do the same.

    July 1, 2009 at 3:33 am |
  6. janette

    @ Cheryl

    July 1, 2009 at 3:20 am |
  7. Nadia

    I notice that none of the media have touched on Michael Jackson's religious upbringing and the religious beliefs of MJ.s parents. I was raised in the Jehovah Witness religion and I am no longer part of that cult. I'm sorry to offend anyone's religious beliefs out there, but I know for a fact from first hand experience and from the research I have conducted that being part of that particular denomination causes a large majority of its congregation a great deal of life miseries. This does not include all of Jehovahs Witness' but like I said there a great deal of them who have sufferred numerous life challenges as a result of practicing this religion. There are several books on the subject , one titled 'Jehovah Witnesses and Mental Illness'. One example of a belief by Jehovah's Witnesses is that statutory holidays such as 'July 4th. ' are not observed due to the connection to politics and wordly events, so the fact that Michael's memorial services being held on that weekend is not an issue for the Jackson Family, as they do not celebrate this holiday according to their beliefs. I have observed numerous members from this particular religious group and have found that many of them become rebellious in nature against their beliefs, perform numerous offenses and such. I work in the area of social sciences working with persons from many diverse backgrounds. It bothers me that the Jackson family has in so many ways destroyed Michael's soul and mind by the brainwashing that goes on in that religion as well as potentially harmful other things.

    I am curious if anyone else can comment on this or has any experience or knowledge on the topic of JWs. This is my first time commenting on a forum such as this. Thank you.

    July 1, 2009 at 3:14 am |
  8. jasmine alexander

    i think that really the media shuld respect the fact that a legend is gone and that his family is grieving...he was a good person inside and out regardless what the media had said about him.his family has been through good and bad times and i feel like for a young female like myself Micheal should be well respected,to many he was a role model and regardless of his race he mad music that went to your soul.so i Jasmine Alexander from Baltimore will say that i wish that God rest his soul and that he is a true Legend to me.and i really wish that the media show a lot more respect.........thankxxxxx

    July 1, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  9. New Orleans

    Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson,

    They are just riding that GRAVY train again with Joe Jackson
    beside them smiling all the way.
    Joe Jackson can't greive, that comes naturally, without thought and one
    cannot control greif, especially one day after your son's death.
    Shame on you Joe Jackson, you are not fooling anyone, and certainly
    not God.

    July 1, 2009 at 1:47 am |
  10. New Orleans

    Anderson Cooper,

    Would you please, please,please submit Michael's will
    on tomorrow's program?

    All of Michael's fans would love and appreciate seeing in black and white what Joseph Jackson did NOT get...

    July 1, 2009 at 1:39 am |
  11. Mary

    To AMB 1433

    Amen to your blogg...
    So Sad,
    but so very true...

    Joe Jackson="Prince of Darkness"

    Michael was nothing more than a cash cow for him and now Michael's
    kids will be also...
    God bless Mrs. Jackson.

    July 1, 2009 at 1:36 am |
  12. cure4lupus

    There seems to be much evidence that Michael Jackson suffered from Lupus. There have been many reports of him suffering from the disease since the mid 80s. In 2003 he attended a Lupus LA fundraiser. In October, 2007 "sources close to the pop star" told Fox news that he had Lupus. After Michael's death, spiritual teacher and medical doctor Deepak Chopra told People Magazine that his longtime friend Michael Jackson suffered from Lupus for many years. There are numerous pictures of him with what could easily be a Lupus rash on his face. Lupus might explain his avoidance of the sun, his rumored drug use, or some of his erratic behavior.

    So, the question is, why are none of the major news outlets covering this story? Why is nobody investigating these reports? I can only guess it is because the story of a superstar abusing drugs for recreation is a far more tantalizing story than a man suffering decades with chronic pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc. and using medications to try to get through each day like hundreds of thousands of us do every day.

    I for one can very much relate to balancing a fear for your safety and life with the desperation to ease the pain and suffering. Taking a little more medication than last time because you just have to get some relief and rest but being terrified that this time it would be too much.

    If this is what happened to Michael Jackson, the world should know about it! Not only does he deserve the truth but it will save lives! And, even if his Lupus had nothing to do with his death, the awareness that could be brought to a disease that desperately needs it, while filling in a missing piece of the Michael Jackson puzzle would be world changing! Please cover this story!

    July 1, 2009 at 1:32 am |
  13. Mary

    Al Sharpton, what a joke!

    He always comes out when there is controversary so he can
    make even more controversary.

    Michael knew he was African American, he only tried
    so hard to alter his appearance because, as a young teen his father
    told him he was ugly and had a flat nose.
    Michael is loved and appreciated so widely because Michael
    broke racial barriers, he loved everyone, no matter what they looked like,
    irony is that the way Michael loved people is the way his father should have loved and accepted him.
    Michael was just a cash cow/meal ticket for his pathetic excuse for a father...

    July 1, 2009 at 1:31 am |
  14. Renee

    Anderson, as a registered nurse myself and based on Mr. Jackson's status the night prior to his death, a lethal injection of something have to be the only logical explanation for this sudden turn of events. Now, we must figure out who is lying, Dr. Murray or that Nurse Practitioner!!

    July 1, 2009 at 1:25 am |
  15. JbC

    Al Sharpton is a hack....what a looser...

    July 1, 2009 at 1:16 am |
  16. Dcb

    Can we all let this pass? The guy was a talented individual who had challenges in his life. He meant well in all of his dealings and now the vultures are going to make this a circus!

    July 1, 2009 at 1:14 am |
  17. sherri

    i feel very bad for michael jackson's family, but i feel worse for his children, i have watched all of this unfolding and cannot believe that nobody is in fear for his children. michael himself has said on tv on numerous occasions that he was physically and mentally abused by his father, which is one of the many reasons he was like he was in his life, however, now, the poor children are in the care of his mother, who was obviously unable, or unwilling to stop the abuse of her own children while they were growing up, now it seems that his father will be able to raise his own children, who may or may not be his own, and possibly do what he did to his own children, michael jackson is not even buried yet and his dad who abused him horribly is already trying to once again make millions off of his son, enough is enough, cant social services, or perhaps the children's mother finally step in and put the children before fame and fortune?????

    July 1, 2009 at 12:29 am |
  18. Albert

    Has anyone ever seen buzzards circling road kill?

    July 1, 2009 at 12:15 am |
  19. @JGbraineruption

    Sharpton is very articulate. I love hearing him speak. He has always stuck beside MJ through everything. It is said MJ made bad choices about the company he kept, Al Sharpton was not in that inner circle but at the same time he did his best to make sure the right type of light shined on our superstar.

    July 1, 2009 at 12:11 am |
  20. glen davidson

    Just a poem from glen

    michael jackson, yea you were bad,
    truth be know you were really sad.
    dad he pushed you, never were a child,
    fame got to you,got much to wild.
    success and money,what did it do?
    truth be known dad because of you.
    take pauls songs,that was really wrong,
    the beatles are sacred can't buy them up,
    oh michael jackson,much to abrubt.
    king of pop,oh this is true was it really worth it ,
    or the end of you? michael jackson, you were the man,
    the drugs got to you ,was that in your plan?
    the world will grieve, cause you were the best, but now its over
    god let him rest.

    July 1, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  21. jennifer ford

    Michael Jackson was our angel here on earth and now he litterly is an angel we all love you Michael and you will always live in our hearts we shared more then just an entertainer/fan relationship you were family Michael once made a statement that he was here to make others happy but i am ashamed that the U.S. didn't give him the happiness and love that he truly deserved it took him dying in order to get any kind of love and respect I wish he were here to see it all another great gone to soon the worlds biggest and best forever an angel

    July 1, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  22. Sadie

    I was adopted and the only parents I knew were the parents who raised me. MJ's kids are his and his alone. Those beautiful children only know MJ as their father. Can't you just leave it alone and let MJ rest in peace. God bless his wonderful mother and the rest of the family. Especially the kids.

    July 1, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  23. eom

    J.Jackson and Sharpton.....what a discrace. taking and making a profit on one of the our world's greatest artists. This is solely about MICHAEL not you....he was put on this earth for a purpose and it seems to be that his talent and performances was his purpose. He is indeed a child of God.

    June 30, 2009 at 11:57 pm |
  24. Tony

    There are clearly two sides to this Michael Jackson tragedy. The positive reports versus the negative reports. Anderson Cooper who did a fabulous job during the Obama campaign has lost many points during this Jackson family ordeal. The reportings and interviews done up to today on your show could be determine as done in bad taste. However now to question the biological relationship of those poor children to who they know as their father, and may I remind you, were on the scene when he passed, is just despicable journalism. There is a good chance those children could hear these reports by watching your program. Ironically the unethical practice of reporting for ratings contributed to put Michael into a depressed state at times, and now to prey on the children who called him father? Shame on you!

    June 30, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  25. ladydiva91

    I can't take all the rick a mond roe about the biggest man in the world i feel so bad about the passing of Michael Jackson I just pray that they let him rest in peace Michael Jackson you forever be loved and missed by the universe because he was loved ny the world

    June 30, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  26. Iowa

    Thank God Michael Jackson can be in a place now where he doesn't have to put up with listening to and going through anymore BS!!!! This is Unbelievable what is going on now after this loving mans death. Just goes to show what a Pathetic world we really do live in.

    I TRULY hope and pray that people can Remeber who he Really was. Obviously he was not only an AMAZING entertainer, but an AMAZINGLY Loving, and Caring man!!

    I will NEVER forget you Mr. Michael Jackson!!
    The World TRULY Loves You!!

    June 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  27. Donna

    I feel sooooo much saddness in my heart for a man who died so young, and was sooooooooo full of pain. Michael Jackson expressed for all the world to hear about the abuse he suffered, both emotionally and physically from his father. It explains why he made choices in his adult life that many of us shook our heads at. I hope Micheal has found peace now, and all the pain he carried throughout his life here on earth, is gone forever.
    R.I.P. Michael Jackson

    June 30, 2009 at 11:29 pm |

    It is amazing how many termites come out of the woodwork when there is the possibility of a dollar involved. Where were all these supporters and big names when Jackson was in trouble and crisis – where were they then~ Nancy Grace said God will judge Michael Jackson – that same God will judge the rest of you too!

    June 30, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  29. Bruce

    This was the second straight night of Anderson Cooper 's nearly wall-to-wall "coverage" of the MJ story. Not that he's much different from Larry King, MSNBC, etc. I'm new to cable TV, and stil don't know what to make of CNN careening between what sometimes appears to be serious TV journalism (the Iran story) and devolving into a Tabloid of the Air (the MJ circus). It must be tricky to fill an hour show with about 10 minutes' worth of "news", at about the level of reality TV or Fox.

    June 30, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  30. CeeCee

    As a Black woman, I would like to say that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are NOT the spokepersons for ALL Black people! I am so sick of them popping up to give their opinion on ANYTHING that has to do with a Black person as if they are the authority!

    Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, "Just leave him (MJ) alone!" As he said in his song!!

    June 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  31. Larry

    I hope this will not be a prelude to the content of Soledad's 'Black In America 2'

    June 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  32. aviva

    someone mentioned miko brando, one of marlon brando's sons. what does he have anything to do with this?

    June 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
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