Paul Pringle, L. A. Times, Mar. 28
In the hive of high-powered attorneys and financial advisors that buzzes around Michael Jackson, the quiet men in subdued suits can’t help but stand out.
They don’t practice law or negotiate Hollywood deals. The men belong to the Nation of Islam, the black separatist group that remains stubbornly at the center of speculation about who is running the pop star’s affairs.
For 31/2 months, starting with the tabloids and Web-based gossip columnists, numerous media outlets have reported that Nation of Islam members took control of the Jackson camp after his November arrest on child molestation charges in Santa Barbara County.
Jackson’s attorneys and business managers have repeatedly dismissed those accounts as wild exaggerations. They and others said the organization headed by Louis Farrakhan has provided security for Jackson and is merely one of many sources of counsel.
“They’re another voice at the table,” said a longtime Jackson confidant. He was among those interviewed who spoke on condition of anonymity, due to fears of alienating Jackson or violating a court-imposed gag order in the molestation case.
“Michael Jackson is in charge; that’s who I report to,” the confidant said.
Farrakhan and his chief of staff, Leonard Muhammad, did not respond to interview requests. Muhammad, who is Farrakhan’s son-in-law, serves as the Nation of Islam’s point man for Jackson.
In late December, the Nation of Islam issued a statement that said it had “no official business or professional relationship” with Jackson. The statement has not been updated, but it seems to have underplayed Muhammad’s continuing role in Jackson’s inner circle.
People close to Jackson say Muhammad works for him in roughly the same capacity he does for Farrakhan at the Nation of Islam’s Chicago headquarters — as a trusted lieutenant who has limited influence over larger matters, but attends to his boss’ day-to-day needs and acts as a gatekeeper for some business associates seeking access.
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