Michael Jackson says he is ''devastated and feels utterly betrayed'' by the British documentary about him that aired this week in the United Kingdom and airs Thursday on ABC's ''20/20.'' In a statement, Jackson's representatives said he considers ''Living With Michael Jackson,'' for which reporter Martin Bashir followed the singer around for eight months and interviewed him several times on camera, ''a gross distortion of the truth and a tawdry attempt to misrepresent his life and his abilities as a father.''
The statement says Jackson granted Bashir access because of the reputation he'd earned with a landmark interview with Princess Diana in 1995. ''Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life and told me that he was 'the man that turned Diana's life around,' the statement quotes Jackson as saying.'' But he says Bashir invaded his children's privacy by filming them without his permission, and that the finished film was ''a salacious ratings chaser'' that misleads viewers about Jackson's behavior with children.
''Michael feels deeply angry that the program could have led viewers to conclude that he abuses children in any way,'' the statement reads. In the interview, Jackson tells Bashir that kids frequently share his bed for milk-and-cookies sleepovers at Neverland Ranch. But the statement says, ''Michael Jackson has never, and would never, treat a child inappropriately or expose them to any harm and totally refutes any suggestions to the contrary. Michael would never betray the trust that a child, or their parents, might place in him.''
Jackson's representatives even supplied a comment from Debbie Rowe, his seldom-heard-from ex-wife and mother of his two older children, who say in the documentary that they never see their mother. The statement quotes her as saying, ''It breaks my heart that anyone could truly believe that Michael would do anything to harm or endanger our children: they are the most important thing in his life.''