Michael Jackson should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. So say an increasing number of the singer's celebrity pals and acquaintances in the wake of his arrest Thursday on child molestation charges. His most recent defender is close friend Elizabeth Taylor, who had declined to comment on the case on Friday but changed her tune on Sunday, issuing a statement saying: ''I believe Michael is absolutely innocent and that he will be vindicated.'' She went on to blast the media for their coverage of the scandal. ''Their whole reaction is that he is guilty. I thought the law was 'innocent until proven guilty,'' she said. ''I know he is innocent and I hope they all eat crow.''
Jackson is accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy who visited him at Neverland, where the singer revealed earlier this year in a TV documentary that he still likes to hold sleepovers and share his bed with kids. ''Simple Life'' reality starlet Nicole Richie, who's a goddaughter to Jackson (her dad is his ''We Are the World'' collaborator Lionel Richie), said she used to sleep in the same room as Jackson and that nothing inappropriate ever occured. ''It was like, absolutely nothing more than just an adult kind of wanting to be a kid again,'' the 22-year-old told TV's ''Access Hollywood.'' She echoed the claim from Jackson's camp that the raid on Neverland was timed to coincide with the release of Jackson's ''Number Ones'' CD, a claim Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon has denied. ''I do think it is very convenient that his album came out and all this stuff is happening. I definitely do think that's very convenient,'' Richie said. ''It really hurts me to see that his whole life is ruined.''
''He's black, rich, and famous and they have nothing better to do,'' funkster Rick James told CNN, referring to the authorities who arrested Jackson. ''As soon as you get famous and black, they go after you,'' said James, who's had his own well-publicized run-ins with the law.
''He's my biggest influence so that's why I'm very defensive,'' Missy Elliott told MTV News at Thursday's Vibe Awards in Los Angeles. ''I'm ready to fight about Michael Jackson, so we pray to God he didn't do it, 'cause I might go to jail trying to defend him.''
''I'm a fan. I support him a hundred zillion percent,'' rapper LL Cool J told reporters at the Vibe Awards. ''Until I see evidence, I'm not going to be convinced. I'm not going to be brainwashed.'' Others at the hip-hop awards ceremony who defended Jackson included Ludacris, Monica, Kelly Osbourne, and Alicia Keys.
''I'm upset at the way he's being treated in the media,'' Keys said. ''I think they're really trying to slander his name, and I really think that's unfair for the way that he's contributed to the American culture since the day he was born. I think he deserves much more than that. This is someone's life, and I don't think he should be reduced to a joke. He's far more than that.''