CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Nation of Islam, the African-American Muslim movement led by Louis Farrakhan, has denied having an official relationship with Michael Jackson amid reports the group is controlling the pop singer’s business.
“The Nation of Islam, in response to several inquiries, has said today that it has no official business or professional relationship with Mr. Michael Jackson,” according to a statement posted on the group’s Web site on Monday. “The Nation of Islam joins thousands of other people in wishing him well.”
A spokesman could not be reached on Tuesday to elaborate on the statement.
On Monday, chief Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman resigned, citing differences with other members of Jackson’s team over the handling of child molestation charges.
The New York Times on Tuesday cited an unidentified colleague saying Backerman resigned to protest the Nation of Islam’s influence.
The newspaper, citing Jackson’s friends, employees and business associates, reported that members of the Nation of Islam were invited to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security. The report said the Nation of Islam, including chief of staff and Farrakhan son-in-law Leonard Muhammad, are restricting access to Jackson and making decisions for him about business, media and legal strategy.
Jackson’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, denied in an interview with the newspaper that the group was running Jackson’s affairs.
“The idea that there is some takeover by the Nation of Islam — someone is spinning you,” he said. “Nobody has told me what to do and what not to do. Leonard, I believe, is someone Michael consults with, just like in excess of 25 people.”
The Indiana-born Jackson claimed to be a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in a 2001 interview with TV Guide.
Farrakhan has been criticized for his anti-Semitic and anti-white rhetoric in espousing empowerment for black Americans.