Michael Jackson’s nephew tells how journalist duped the superstar

Taj Jackson is talking about Martin Bashir, the TV journalist who cast damaging aspersions about his uncle Michael Jackson’s private life in a controversial documentary in 2003. He’s choosing his words very carefully, but nevertheless his opinion of the man is incontrovertible.

‘I don’t want to be misquoted here,’ he warns politely, ‘because Martin Bashir is probably the type who will sue me. But I’ve always said that he’s like the dirty cop of journalism, where he’s this cop who goes around planting evidence and changing stories and who has put people ‘in jail’ – quote unquote. 

‘He might not have been the one who actually killed my uncle, but he did put him into an emotional ‘jail’ that eventually ended up killing him.’

When Bashir’s documentary, Living With Michael Jackson, was first seen the reaction was explosive. 

Michael Jackson with Bashir filming at Neverland in 2003 for Living With Michael Jackson

The result of eight months of interviews, it painted a picture of a deeply disturbed man and, most damagingly, implied strongly that the eccentric singer was in the habit of sharing his bed with his many underage guests. ‘Kids want to be loved, they want to be touched, they want to be held,’ it quoted him as saying.

Just months after the broadcast, Michael was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of intoxicating a minor with alcoholic drinks. 

Further charges were brought in 2004, and his 2005 trial lasted for four months. He was found not guilty on all counts, but his health, never robust, was permanently affected. 

He withdrew from the world. Neverland – his beloved home to the north of Los Angeles – fell into rack and ruin and he died of cardiac arrest in 2009, aged just 50.

For years, Michael’s family have claimed the documentary twisted the star’s words to present a false and hurtful narrative. 

And now that an inquiry has found that Martin Bashir was ‘deceitful’ in the way he obtained his interview with Princess Diana in 1995, Taj – the eldest son of Michael’s brother Tito, who along with his brothers Taryll and TJ comprise the pop group 3T, who were second only to the Spice Girls as the biggest-selling group in Europe in 1996 – believes it’s time to speak up on behalf of his uncle too.

‘Martin Bashir hasn’t only done this to Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, he’s done this to many families,’ he says. (Bashir also conducted interviews with Michael Barrymore, Jeffrey Archer and George Best among others.) 

‘Our family and Michael’s fans have always known about Martin Bashir and his dirty work, and I’m happy that the world is starting to learn as well. The Princess Diana interview has been heavily investigated, but what about us?’

Taj (pictured) said Michael was convinced into doing the documentary after being shown a letter the late princess Diana wrote to Bashir consenting for her 1995 interview

Taj (pictured) said Michael was convinced into doing the documentary after being shown a letter the late princess Diana wrote to Bashir consenting for her 1995 interview 

It was Michael’s friendship with Diana that made him do the documentary in the first place. Although the two only met in person once – on 16 July, 1988 at Wembley Stadium for a concert Michael gave as part of his Bad tour – they forged a firm friendship by telephone until the end of her life. 

He once described her as ‘one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known’. 

Taj has said that Michael – famously publicity-wary – was convinced into doing the documentary after being shown a letter the late princess wrote to Bashir consenting to her 1995 interview, and he admits that when he heard his uncle was doing it he initially felt nothing but anticipation.

‘I was super-excited because I thought the world was finally going to see who Michael Jackson really is, the wonderful stuff he does. When 3T’s first song Anything hit the top of the charts in the UK [it reached No 2 in January 1996] we got a phone call from him. 

He used a voiceover to twist things around 

‘We thought he was going to congratulate us, but he called to scold us because we hadn’t visited any children’s hospitals. He said, ‘Every city I go to I go to a children’s hospital, and it’s your responsibility to do that too.’

Although the documentary did highlight Michael’s charitable endeavours, it also suggested a dark undercurrent. ‘He did capture a lot of the good stuff,’ Taj admits of Bashir. 

‘But then he would use a voiceover to twist it around. Michael had another video camera filming parts of the interview, and there’s footage of Bashir on Michael’s camera, talking about all the kids coming to the ranch and how wonderful it was. 

‘He says, ‘I was here yesterday and it’s nothing short of a spiritual thing.’ But then in the show the voiceover says, ‘One of the most disturbing things is the fact that a lot of disadvantaged children go to Neverland. It’s a dangerous place for a vulnerable child to be.’ I don’t know why he did that. 

Taj said he doesn't know if Bashir was always planning to be untruthful during the production of his documentary with Michael (pictured)

Taj said he doesn’t know if Bashir was always planning to be untruthful during the production of his documentary with Michael (pictured) 

‘I don’t know if he was always planning to be untruthful or if he thought, ‘I can make more money doing it this way.’ But he was shaping a narrative of this dangerous place, when in reality it was nothing like that. 

The family filed a complaint to the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission, but it was ignored. Now we’re seeing many years later that justice is finally happening,’ he says of the Diana inquiry.

Just 15 years younger than his uncle, Taj, who turns 48 this week, says he and Michael were particularly close.

‘He was like a big brother to me. He was a big kid! You could hear his laughter across the room. He was always making someone laugh, or laughing at himself. He was silly.

‘I don’t want to get in trouble here, but he and I would go down the boulevard in the car throwing stink bombs and water balloons at people. No one would have suspected that they got stink bombed by Michael Jackson, but that’s who he was.’

Michael was like a big brother to me 

Life has not been all fun for Taj. He has said that as a child he was sexually abused by a relative, and when he was 21 his mother Dee Dee, then divorced from Tito, drowned in a swimming pool. 

‘Michael swooped in to help us,’ he says. ‘He and my mother had an incredible relationship. 

‘Because my brothers and I were in the middle of our first album and our mom was our manager, he said, ‘You have to finish the album, this is what she would have wanted. Do it and make her proud.’ So we did.’

Taj is currently putting together a TV documentary series about his uncle’s life. ‘It’s not going to skate over anything,’ he says. 

‘It’s going to be truthful, and I’m hoping that at the end of it people will really know who Michael Jackson was, the magic behind him. There’s been a lot wrong in the narrative of Michael Jackson in the last 30 years, and it’s about time that changed.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk