In '93, PBS Essayist Called Michael Jackson the 'Crotch-Grabbing Self-Appointed Guardian Angel of the World's Children'

Michael Jackson’s death offers a reminder that some old TV news encomiums were too gooey, even in their own time. On April 7, 1993 on PBS, MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour essayist Anne Taylor Fleming offered a tribute to Jackson as "The new-age Fred Astaire…an urban urchin with wings on his feet." Fleming was fixated more on the dancing: "I must confess that his singing has always seemed secondary to me, the leftover choirboy trying to rhapsodize about romance. It doesn’t ring right. It’s like Madonna trying to be soft and Monroe-like."

What followed became a Notable Quotable, where the liberal babble began:

If either of the two [Madonna or Michael Jackson] is the logical heir to Marilyn Monroe, it is clearly Michael Jackson, who is the more bruised and authentically vulnerable of the two....He doesn’t leave a single metaphor untouched. Not only is he black and white, male and female, but also young and old, hip and square, the crotch-grabbing self-appointed guardian angel of the world's children.

Months later, when allegations of child sexual abuse surfaced, Jackson was then compared to Ronald Reagan:

The explanation for this almost evasive coverage has to do with [Michael] Jackson's peculiar relationship with the public, and the interpretation of that relationship by the press. The feeling is: he may be a space cadet, but he's our space cadet, and we want to keep him. He's the Ronald Reagan of pop. -- Newsweek media writer Jonathan Alter, September 6, 1993.

PBS News Hour Celebrities Anne Taylor Fleming Michael Jackson
Tim Graham's picture