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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Jackson's Children; Jackson Investigation; Jermaine Jackson Speaks; Jackson's Lawsuits

Aired July 02, 2009 - 19:00   ET



Tonight, the mother of two of Michael Jackson's children may be considering a custody fight. Also, the last known video of Jackson and the tape shows Jackson's final dress rehearsal just two days before his death. We'll show you brand new video inside Neverland Ranch.

Also tonight North Korea launches four missile tests after threatening to launch a Fourth of July attack on this country.

And the nation's unemployment rate jumps again, moving even closer to 10 percent. The president says it's sobering.

Tonight, a custody battle may be shaping up over Michael Jackson's children. Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, says she wants to fight for custody of Jackson's two older children and just moments ago, we heard from her lawyer who says no decision has been made.

Now, Jackson's will names his mother as guardian of all three of his children and Katherine Jackson now has temporary custody while the Jackson estate is settled. We will have complete coverage tonight with Don Lemon and Drew Griffin in Los Angeles. And we begin with Don Lemon, outside the Staples Center. Don, what is the very latest in the custody battle tonight?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The very latest, a conference call, Kitty, just a couple of minutes ago, with Debbie Rowe's attorneys responding to questions from the media about whether or not Debbie Rowe wants to get custody of Michael Jackson's two oldest children. She is the mother of those two children, not the mother of the youngest kid.

We woke up to "The L.A. Times" has been breaking a lot of these stories along with CNN and it says, an estranged mother reconsiders her role. This is the front of "The L.A. Times" here, so the media has been asking a lot of questions about this and apparently her attorneys felt so compelled that they wanted to hold a conference call with the media.

And I'm going to quote what her attorney said here just a short time ago. Her attorney's name, Kitty, is Eric George (ph) and he said that the hearing -- there is supposed to be a hearing on whether or not Katherine Jackson would get permanent guardianship of the children on Monday, July 6th. But since this new development that Debbie Rowe might possibly want to get custody of her children, all parties agree to move that hearing to July 13th. And here's a quote, he says, "I am representing to you now unequivocally that Debbie has not reached a final decision concerning the pending custody proceedings."

And he said that on a conference call to reporters saying he simply doesn't know yet. Can Debbie Rowe get custody of those children? Did she relinquish her parental rights? We spoke to an attorney who looked over those guardianship papers filed by Katherine Jackson and here is what she said to us.


LEMON: Does Debbie Rowe have any recourse in any of this? Can she get custody of the children?

MINA SIRKIN, PROBATE ATTORNEY: Debbie Rowe -- the issue with Debbie Rowe is whether or not her parental rights were terminated and if they weren't terminated she still has legal obligations as a parent and she has legal obligations to support those children. But at the same time if she is -- she will have priority as a mom to be able to take those children to live with her, and that's called the guardianship of the person. But in terms of whether or not she will financially benefit, that remains to be seen. But her lifestyle may actually improve if the children actually live with her.

LEMON: Because she has to keep the children living in the lifestyle that they've grown accustomed to?

SIRKIN: That is correct.


LEMON: And in Michael Jackson's will, as we saw yesterday -- we have a copy of that will -- he says, I make no provisions for my ex- wife and mother of my children, Debbie Rowe, but if she did not fully relinquish those parental rights she would have authority, even over the mother, Katherine Jackson, who is listed in the will as a person that Michael Jackson wanted to have guardianship over his children and even in any trust, just because she is the mother.

So, you know, Kitty, details as soon as we get them, we don't know and we'll -- I guess we'll figure it out on July 13th -- that's when the hearing is scheduled now. It was supposed to be Monday the 6th. Now it is July 13th.

PILGRIM: Don, another question -- what is planned at the Staples Center for a memorial at this point -- do you know?

LEMON: Yes. We're hearing about -- the Staples Center is where Michael Jackson was rehearsing for his upcoming concert series that was supposed to start in London on July 13th. AEG Live is the promotion company that was putting on those concerts. They have an association with the Staples Center behind me. We're hearing that possibly on Tuesday there is going to be a public memorial for Michael Jackson here at the Staples Center. Their concern is that they only hold 20,000 people here, only 20,000 seats in this venue. So we have heard that just in case, they're ordering large televisions, big screen televisions, speakers and what have you to handle the overflow here at the Staples Center.

And as you just saw -- as you said earlier, that video, that exclusive video that we had earlier -- CNN was the first to air it -- of Michael Jackson rehearsing just days before his death and more of that I should say, tonight on "AC 360," Kitty. Anderson Cooper will have a full interview. He interviewed some of the dancers, also the promoter with AEG who was putting on those concerts and he also went inside the Staples Center to give you a little bit of behind the scenes look "AC 360" tonight, Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much. Don Lemon. Thanks, Don.

And we have the last known video of Michael Jackson performing. Now this tape was shot two days before Jackson died, as Jackson rehearsed for his new tour.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.



PILGRIM: As you can see, he does seem healthy, energetic, aware -- dancing on stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He was singing a song from his "History" album. It's called "They Don't Care About Us" and that video came to us from AEG Live. That's the promoter of Jackson's planned shows in London. The company's president was there for Jackson's final rehearsal in L.A. and he spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper today.


ANDERSON COOPER, "AC 360": I got to ask the question, which I'm sure you've been asking -- each of you has been asking yourselves and other people have been asking you -- what happened? And what do you think happened to Michael Jackson? You saw him the night before he died.

RANDY PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEG LIVE: We all saw him that night when he finished Wednesday night at 12:30 in the morning. I looked over and he, Kenny, and Frank Dileo (ph) who was managing him during this process were hugging each other. I walked him to the car -- I was going to my car and he put his arm around me and with that soft voice of his, he whispered in my ear thank you. We're going to get it there together. I know I can do this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: As Don Lemon just mentioned, you can see more of that interview tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Tonight the investigation into Jackson's death is now a federal matter. The Drug Enforcement Administration has stepped in to look into doctors involved with Jackson and their sources of prescription drugs. Now it's been one week since Jackson died and since then the role of drugs has dominated speculation about the cause of death.

Drew Griffin is live in L.A. tonight with the very latest. And Drew, why is the DEA involved in this investigation tonight?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, first of all, it is not unusual for the DEA to be brought in to a case like this and this remains an investigation of the LAPD and the coroner's office, a death investigation. But what I think it tells us is now there is a reason for the DEA to come in, and that means drugs were involved.

The DEA's Drug Diversion Unit usually comes into cases like this to track the medicines, track the doctors, track the prescriptions, and also advise the LAPD as to whether or not the drugs they are finding -- if they are finding drugs, which we certainly believe at this point, are illegal drugs or were administered illegally.

That is why the DEA was brought in to aid the LAPD in this investigation. As far as any results on this investigation, still, Kitty, the L.A. coroner's office told me today, still late July is what they're looking at, at the earliest to get that autopsy and the toxicology results released to the public.

PILGRIM: Drew, what specifically are they looking for? What is the DEA looking for here?

GRIFFIN: I really -- I really wish I knew. It's all going to -- I mean obviously the medical examiner knows the drugs that were in Michael Jackson's body if there were any. Now, the L.A. police and there's the coroner, assistant chief coroner there, Ed Winter (ph), going away with bags of evidence. If those bags of evidence contain prescriptions, certainly they know what those prescriptions are.

Do the prescriptions in those bags match the pills that may have been in Michael Jackson's body? Were there enough of those drugs in Michael Jackson's body to cause respiratory failure? That's all the types of things they're looking for, just not privy to the exact drug that they may or may not have found, Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much. Drew Griffin. Thank you, Drew.

Coming up, President Obama speaks out about Michael Jackson for the first time and we'll have that for you, next.

Also, Michael Jackson was a magnet for lawsuits -- more than a thousand over his lifetime -- more in death.

And our "Face Off" debate tonight -- have the media gone overboard with coverage of Jackson's death?


PILGRIM: President Obama spoke for the first time today about the death of Michael Jackson. His comments came in an interview with The Associated Press.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that Michael Jackson is -- will go down in history as one of our greatest entertainers. I grew up on his music. Still have all of -- all of his stuff on my iPod. You know, I think that his brilliance as a performer also was paired with a tragic and, you know, in many ways, sad, personal life. But you know I'm glad to see that he is being remembered primarily for the great joy that he brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts as an entertainer.


PILGRIM: Up until now, President Obama had only spoken through the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs -- today a very personal statement from the president on the death of Michael Jackson.

Also today -- Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine, opened up about Jackson's death and he revealed details about the day his brother died and touched on the question about prescription drug abuse. Mary Snow reports.



MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One week after Jermaine Jackson delivered the news of his brother's death, he is the first family member to talk more in depth about Michael Jackson. In an interview with NBC's "Today" show he recounted hearing his mother cry on the phone, telling him Michael was dead, and he grew emotional when he described how he rushed to UCLA hospital.

J. JACKSON: Seeing him there lifeless and breathless is very emotional for me and this sounds strange, but he went too soon. He went too soon. I don't know how people are going to take this, but I wish it was me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you feel that way?

J. JACKSON: Because I've always felt that I was his backbone -- someone to -- someone to be there for him.

SNOW: Jermaine Jackson was asked whether he'd be shocked if toxicology reports showed his brother used or abused prescription drugs. When directly asked whether it was possible, he gave this response.

J. JACKSON: I really don't know, Matt. I really don't know, and I'm being honest. I really don't know. But I do know this. That Michael was always concerned about just everybody and to have that weight on your shoulders and to have that kind of pressure, I don't know. I don't know.

SNOW: But Jermaine Jackson has left no doubt about his belief in his brother's innocence when he faced child molestation charges in 2005 and was acquitted. It's something Jermaine has been adamant about over the years including in this interview with Larry King three years ago.

J. JACKSON: You know where my heart has been since day one. Michael's been 1,000 percent innocent. I have spoken from my heart. I've spoken the truth.

SNOW (on camera): Jermaine Jackson also says he wants Neverland to be the final resting place for his brother. And asked whether his 79-year-old mother Katherine is capable of taking care of Jackson's three children as stipulated in the will, he said she is definitely capable.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


PILGRIM: Jermaine Jackson will be Larry King's special guest tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. And Larry will be live from the Neverland Ranch and will have special access and an exclusive behind the scenes look at Michael Jackson's former home, so please join Larry at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

Michael Jackson survived great adversity throughout his long career, including several legal battles. Jackson was cleared of child molestation charges in a very high-profile case, but he faced countless other lawsuits, including some over his music. Ines Ferre has our report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Jackson led a life of stardom long played by litigation. Over his career, countless lawsuits were filed against him, some frivolous, some very serious. Plaintiffs included an Arab sheik, a former porn film producer, even a woman who called herself "Billie Jean Jackson" wanting $1 billion.

ASSOC. PROF. STAN SOOCHER, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: The cases really start to come into play with the success of the "Thriller" album. That seemed to be where the uptick occurred and then as his level of his business increased so did a lot of the personal lawsuits -- the more famous he was, the more numerous the lawsuits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's only a movie. FERRE: He was acquitted on child molestation claims in 2005, but 12 years earlier settled for an undisclosed sum said to have been at least $10 million for another child molestation claim. There was a reported $8.5 million agreement with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe in which she gave up any claim of custody-of his children. Jackson has been sued for millions by two financial services companies. Even a veterinary hospital filed suit against him claiming unpaid bills for the zoo at Neverland. In 2003, one of his former lawyers said Jackson had been involved in more than 1,500 lawsuits throughout his career. Entertainment lawyers say Jackson was a magnet for litigation.

MICKEY SHERMAN, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER: It's very difficult to separate what's real and what's garbage. Michael Jackson generally took the easy way out and the smart way out by just paying these people off.

FERRE: Just this year, suits were filed by the director of the "Thriller" video, John Landis (ph).


FERRE: And Jackson's co-star Olla Ray (ph) claiming unpaid royalties. And his former publicist claimed the "King of Pop" owed her $44 million for unpaid services. And a concert promoter wanted millions in compensation because of Jackson's planned comeback, claiming he'd agreed to a reunion concert by the Jackson 5 before any other appearances.


FERRE: And even though Jackson didn't win all of the lawsuits that actually made it to court, when it came to copyright infringement suits brought against him he usually prevailed, Kitty.

PILGRIM: What will happen to the lawsuits that are still pending?

FERRE: Oh yes lawyers are saying that those will go forward. I mean they're going to push those through.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Ines Ferre.

Up next, brand-new video from inside Neverland Ranch -- also ahead, one week after Michael Jackson's death, is the media coverage too much? It's the subject of our "Face Off" tonight. And we'll have the very latest on the possible legal battle over his children.


PILGRIM: Federal agencies have joined the investigation into Michael Jackson's death. Now, the DEA will investigate whether prescription drugs were involved. There is considerable speculation whether drug use was a factor in Michael Jackson's death.

Stuart Backerman (ph) was a publicist and a spokesman for Michael Jackson. He worked very closely with Jackson for two years. And thank you very much for joining us this evening, sir. Tell me what you think about the drug allegations of drug abuse.

STUART BACKERMAN, FORMER JACKSON PUBLICIST: Well, I mean, it's no news that Michael, since the Pepsi commercial, needed pain medication because people don't realize that was a real seminal event -- that Pepsi commercial where his hair caught on fire, not only singed his hair but he also -- it singed his scalp and he was in tremendous pain after that commercial. And it started out in a very innocent way from the point of view of needing some pain medication and that obviously over the years took hold into more of a, you know, habitual situation but it was done with the utmost innocence from the point of view of he was in deep pain.

PILGRIM: You know you were with him two years, from 2004 to 2006, you have certainly seen...


PILGRIM: Oh I'm sorry, go ahead...

BACKERMAN: 2000 -- 2002 to 2004.

PILGRIM: Oh excuse me. I'm sorry. I do have the wrong information. You have certainly seen him in recent days. What's your assessment of his physical condition?

BACKERMAN: Well, his physical condition he was always a bit frail because he watched his weight. He was really concerned about getting overweight. I'll never forget him in the house, seeing a computer photo of how graphic of how he would look when he was 50 and he kind of freaked out because he thought he was going to look like his father. And so he -- he made sure that -- he made sure that his weight was such where it was, you know, obviously under control.

PILGRIM: There is some discussion he was so very thin at the time of his death that there was some discussion of an eating disorder. Is that your opinion or no?

BACKERMAN: Well, I don't think he had an eating disorder per se. I think he didn't have a great diet to tell you the truth. I mean it's a well known fact that he loved Kentucky Fried Chicken, he wasn't really -- wasn't appealing vegetables and fruits, et cetera, which of course are very good for you. So I don't think he ate properly. I don't really think he had an eating disorder, per se.

PILGRIM: All right, you know was Michael aware of his public persona that people really, really loved him for his talent but then had some reservations about his personal life? Give us some insight into his psychology and how he was perceived publicly.

BACKERMAN: Well, he was perceived publicly almost contradictory terms. People saw him as one of the great talents of all time, but also saw all of the eccentricities.

PILGRIM: But was he aware of that...

BACKERMAN: I might say that... PILGRIM: Yes was he -- was he aware of this dual sort of vision of him?

BACKERMAN: Yes, yes he was and he played into that to a certain degree. There were times when he went out of the house all dressed up you know in strange garb, so to speak, and did it on purpose, in a way. There are other times and I would say for the most part, where he just wanted to not to be inhibited by the media and the press and his fans so he dressed up in that fashion. But he was -- he was slyer than a fox. He knew what was going on and frankly I used to say that he was his own best publicist.

PILGRIM: Stuart, you've been inside Neverland. We have some wonderful pictures of Neverland that are available to us tonight -- a really incredible glimpse into the lifestyle of Michael Jackson. We will have a "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive on these pictures at 9:00 Eastern tonight. But we're showing our viewers a quick glimpse of them. Give us some thoughts about Neverland.

BACKERMAN: Neverland was a special place. Even take Michael out of the situation, what he created there was something very, very precious. I'll never forget going to Neverland the first time, the inside gates to Neverland opened up and this beautiful music from "Fantasia", Disney's "Fantasia" is wafting through the whole property over loud speakers strategically placed.

There are confectioneries all over the place, all over the property for young kids and handicapped children who came up from Los Angeles, who actually were given bags and were able to take home unlimited ice cream and cotton candy and popcorn. It was just an incredible place. But more important than even the physicality or the aesthetics of Neverland was the feeling -- it just was really serene, very precious kind of environment. And I'll never forget it as long as I live.

PILGRIM: Yes, when you went there the actual physical property just looks stunning. What were the buildings like? What was the layout and what impressed you the most about it?

BACKERMAN: Well, it was like a multiuse property, because there was so much going on. There were go-karts. I remember my son Elan (ph) going on a go-kart. There, of course, were the amusement rides, this amazing theater with a special room, two-way glass room where I remember Mike Tyson and I watched a heavyweight fight where nobody in the main theater part of the movie theater could actually see upstairs and Mike Tyson and I watched a heavyweight fight. The man-made lake, the Indian village, the landscaped land use was just impeccable. It was just really, just a beautiful, serene, just an amazing place.

PILGRIM: Well thank you very much for giving us that insight into that fantastic property. Stuart Backerman, thank you very much for being with us tonight. Thank you, Stuart.

BACKERMAN: My pleasure -- my pleasure.

PILGRIM: We'll have much more on Michael Jackson what the newly released video of his final dress rehearsal can tell us about his condition before he died. Also Jackson's death has dominated the headlines for a week. Is all this coverage just too much? Well, that is the subject of our "Face Off" debate.


PILGRIM: Joining me now for more on the death of Michael Jackson are Joe Levy (ph), the editor-in-chief of "Maxim," magazine, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer, and music journalist Alan Light (ph) and Alan (ph) is also the former editor of "Spin" magazine. Gentlemen thanks for being with us this evening.

Let's start with the Debbie Rowe news -- no decision yet being made about a custody battle, but it isn't off the table yet -- some thoughts on that, A.J.?

A.J. HAMMER, HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Well first of all, Debbie Rowe has every right because she is listed as the mother on the birth certificate of the two older Michael Jackson children, to appear at any hearings that are going on where guardianship is being determined. We know that Michael Jackson left her out of the will.

He expressed his desire for his mother Katherine and of course for or perhaps Diana Ross to take over as guardian if Katherine wasn't available to do that. I don't know if she's going to make a play. She hasn't said officially that she would yet and I quite frankly don't know how a judge would look at that because the judge is going to do what's in the best interest of the children. It's not Michael's will that determines who gets the kids. Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, has had a close relationship with these kids to the best of our knowledge, and Debbie Rowe hasn't had much of a relationship at all with the kids.

Plus, the kids are really old enough to speak their mind and say what they would like, which is very important.

JOE LEVY, "MAXIM" MAGAZINE: And in point of face, Debbie Rowe in the past said that she doesn't want to be a mother. She was a parent, she gave birth to the children, but in the past, she has said I don't want to be a mom.

So to step in now would be odd. And there's been the suggestion that she might be stepping in, looking not so much after their best interests, but perhaps her own. There's going to be some financial package that come along with taking care of these children.

PILGRIM: There certainly will, Alan. You know, this vault of recorded, this incredible cache of recording.

ALAN LIGHT, MUSIC JOURNALIST: We'll find out what's incredible. Certainly there are reels and reels of stuff. Michael has been recording in recent years with Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, with Akon, with other significant R&B starts. There's talk he did some work with Kanye West.

But Akon was also quoted today saying, we had a bunch of great ideas in sessions, but we didn't actually even finish one song.

So it's really going to come down to who owns this material and who is then going to decide how to curate this stuff. If there's a bunch of scraps, we've seen with Tupac, with Biggie Smalls, you can take a little tiny thing and make a new record out of it, but is that what the artistic legacy of Michael Jackson would call for?

PILGRIM: Actually, that's a very interesting point, because I don't know what you could make out of scraps of music, and I'm sure many viewers aren't aware of this. Could you make a whole other album, or would it be used for maybe commercials?

LIGHT: Michael Jackson and guests and went to Beyonce to record a duet with him.

LEVY: Sure. If Michael had vocals to a song and the song wasn't finished, you can call in the great of the producers in the world, all of whom would be thrilled to work on the project, to come and create a song around a rough demo vehicle.

HAMMER: And there are reportedly completed songs even going back to "Thriller" that didn't make it onto albums.

LIGHT: We know there were finished "Thriller" songs, but there were these deluxe bonus reissues a few years ago. They put a few of those things out.

So now you're talking about songs that didn't make the original cut and then didn't make the deluxe reissue. You know, they're all of interest. They're Michael Jackson recordings. They'd be interesting to hear, but are they really the top shelf stuff? You kind of think we would have heard that by now.

LEVY: I think what we know of Michael Jackson as a recording artist is that he was a perfectionist. What we know of him when it came to stepping on stage was that he was a perfectionist. That's how he got what he got.

And what we've heard of the odds and ends that have come out on the deluxe bonus editions or on "HIStory," the greatest hits package, not his fine of the work.

PILGRIM: The artistic control of this would run to --

HAMMER: But I think there's also going to be a lot of money to be made potentially from the reported hundreds of hours of high definition footage that's been shot of the recent rehearsals, the folks from AEG, who are speaking to Anderson a little later tonight, said they were shooting all along the way, performances. They were shooting every bit of the rehearsals.

We're going to see that come out. In what form, I don't know, but there's a lot of money at stake there as well.

PILGRIM: We have been looking at clips. What's your assessment? Certainly you have all followed his career in depth. What's your assessment of his performance?

Now, obviously this is rehearsal, so you're maybe not giving full performance strength, but --

LEVY: I thought it looked pretty good.

HAMMER: I did, too.

LIGHT: On the one hand, he's -- you know he's up, moving around. Certainly the reports that he couldn't get out of a wheelchair or something like, you know, this would seem to contradict that.

Is this the best 90 seconds of the best day that he had? I think the question is, how representative of anything is this? If it's a full show, and he's moving like this, then that looks like a real performance.

LEVY: Just the same, amid all of the speculation recently, and all of the talk about, is there drug use, is there not drug use, to see him standing up, dancing, singing, makes you think, hey, wait a minute, maybe he could have pulled this show off.

And I have not been so sure up until the point that this rehearsal footage --

LIGHT: I still wouldn't say I'm sure. I still wouldn't say one piece of one song that he's lip syncing to convinces me that he could have done a full performance. But it's certainly stronger than a lot of what we've heard.

PILGRIM: Certainly you have to be very focused to be doing this kind of choreography though, right, A.J.?

HAMMER: There's no question about it. And again, to the point that was made, he clearly wasn't as reported in a wheelchair, frail, skeletal. Yes, he looked like he could have stood to put on a few pounds, but Michael's looked that way for a long time now.

And then to further hear, which again, we'll be hearing with Anderson later tonight, the gentlemen from AEG, the concert promoter who was putting this whole thing together, say at end of the night Michael gave him a hug, his energy was good.

And we've not only heard from them. We've heard it from Lou Ferrigno, who was training Michael. We've heard it from his vocal coach. We've heard it from many people who don't have a vested interest.

LIGHT: The only thing I would say is to remember is AEG has an extremely vested interest.

HAMMER: That's why I'm saying it's important to keep in mind, Kevin Mazer, the photographer who has been shooting Michael Jackson for 30 year, we all know Kevin. He has no reason to say Michael had terrific energy and was the Michael that I always knew if he wasn't.


What do you think about the production, the quality of the production that you're looking at? Do you think that would have been a hit show?

LEVY: Very, very hard to judge from what we saw. Very, very hard to judge.

And all of the details we've heard about the amazing 3D spectacular, you can't tell from rehearsal footage.

But I will say, I saw Jackson perform, I'm sure you did as well. It was never less than an absolutely overwhelming theatrical experience. At times it was ridiculous, but it was always awesome and overwhelming.

HAMMER: Perfectionism.

LIGHT: I think the perfectionism is important to remember, though, when we talk about these vaults of existing recordings, because, you know, to put out anything that's out there would be an easy sort of a cash grab. That's not the way he'd live the rest of his life and developed the rest of his career.

HAMMER: But there are people still around his estate who have worked with him and who did work with him for years who would know, Tommy Mottola, even among them, who worked with him originally and probably knows more about what's out there than anybody else, formerly from Sony records, he would know what Michael Jackson would want, I would believe.

PILGRIM: And so his legacy will be protected, do you think, perhaps?

LEVY: Oh, boy, that is -- that is the open question. Who -- I think we can expect this to drag on in the courts for quite some time. Many people will lay claim to this.

And if the family controls it, who knows what it means? If his lawyer controls it, perhaps his wishes will be followed. Who knows who his wishes would have been?

LIGHT: We've seen this with Jimi Hendrix. It was decades of sorting out who controlled that material and that estate. This is going to be a fight for a while.

PILGRIM: Gentlemen, we'll leave it there. And we will be talking about it, we think, for quite some time. Joe Levy, A.J. Hammer, Alan Light, thank you very much.

Coming up, more on Michael Jackson. Plus, North Korea test fires four short-range missiles, leaving many to wonder what is next.

Also, U.S. forces begin a major operation in Afghanistan. One marine killed, several wounded.

And has the media gone overboard in its coverage of Michael Jackson? That's the topic of our face-off debate tonight, next.


PILGRIM: Has the media gone overboard covering the death of Michael Jackson? That's the topic of our face-off tonight.

And joining me now are Howard Kurtz, media reporter for the "Washington Post" and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," also Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University.

And gentleman, thank you very much for being with us tonight. You know, it has this interesting dichotomy, because you're fascinated by it, and yet everyone seems to be saying, OK, maybe it's too much. But yet again, you really are very interested in each detail.

Let me start with you, Howard. What do you think is going on here? This is an interesting phenomenon, at best.

HOWARD KURTZ, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST, CNN HOST: Kitty, the coverage is out of control, and it's becoming an embarrassment to the news business.

The almost wall-to-wall cable coverage, led by CNN, particularly at night, the network morning shows, the prime time network specials.

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: In the first couple of days one of most famous people in the planet dies under murky circumstances, somebody's who music touched millions, sure it's a huge story. We're now in day seven. You have the yellow breaking news banner up. There are not a lot of new developments.

But everybody looked at the numbers and said, hey, this is great. Our ratings are way up. And so everyone in the news business, particularly on television, trying to keep this story alive.

PILGRIM: And yet ratings reflect popular interest, don't they, Howard?

KURTZ: Well, sure. But if you're going to program your news network that way, you can put on naked Jell-o wrestling and do a big number.

I mean, what's being shoved aside here, Kitty? A big major U.S. incursion military offensive in Afghanistan, everything else from Al Franken. The only other story that's getting traction is Mark Sanford. Why? Because it's got sex in it.

PILGRIM: Robert, what did you think?

THOMPSON: It's true. All of this coverage is very little news. I mean, there's really one piece of data so far -- Michael Jackson died at the age of 50. The rest of it, so far, is speculation, retrospectives, reactions of people. And this is an awful lot of coverage for a very, very little bit of information.

But you know, people are talking about this survey, 65 percent of the country says there is too much coverage.

PROBLEM: Let's put it up for our viewers. It's a Pew Research Center poll. A majority of Americans think the coverage is too much, 64 percent, right there. And 29 percent say the story is the right amount. And yet -- go ahead.

THOMPSON: Yes, I mean, I think we have to look at this -- that doesn't mean that they're not watching it.

I mean, the equivalent would be, I suppose if you ask 100 people who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day the following question -- are cigarettes bad for you? My guess would be nearly all of them would answer the question yes. But they're still smoking two packs a day.

Now, everybody isn't watching Michael Jackson coverage. But while they're filling out, many of them, the "yes" box in the survey, is there too much Michael Jackson coverage, they're watching it while they're complaining that there's too much coverage that they're watching.

KURTZ: But especially on cable, Kitty. If you have an average audience of 1 million, if you get another million, the executives are breaking out champagne. But that doesn't mean most of country is quite as fixated on this.

And I disagree on this point. There have been some important developments this week, the battle over the will, the custody of the kids. If 15 minutes every hour was devoted to Michael Jackson, don't think I would have any problem.

But instead it's 50 minutes out of every hour, at least much of the day on many of the cable channels, and I think that is way overboard.

But at same time, I know what the dilemma is -- if you go away from this now, cut off the debate, you go to Afghanistan, those numbers will drop.

PILGRIM: Robert, you do say, you study popular culture. You do say there's an upside to all of the coverage, don't you?

THOMPSON: Well, whenever there's a death of a major figure, we get all of these retrospectives and all of these look back and everything. And, let's face it, Michael Jackson was a really important part of the American cultural landscape.

And there are a lot of people, my students included, who didn't know about those Motown years, who didn't know about a lot of the things that's being covered here.

So whenever we get one of these blanket coverage kinds of things, a lot of people do learn a lot of things because they have no other choice.

And again, I would agree, this deserves to be covered. I just don't think that in the best of all possible worlds or even in the OK of all possible worlds, that it should get anywhere near the coverage it does at the expense of some really important stories that are finding themselves in the little text crawls at the bottom of yet another replay of the Motown 25 performance of "Billie Jean."

PILGRIM: Howard, how does new technology factor into this? You have all of these platforms where you can see it simultaneously. Doesn't that add to the impact of seeming to have it everywhere at once?

KURTZ: Oh, sure. The idea that you can get this on every Web site in America, on Twitter, on your Facebook page, does add to the ubiquity of it.

But I think at same time, part of what's driving this, because look at death of other famous entertainers, maybe George Harrison, I think, was a more important figure. But with Michael Jackson, you have the essentially weirdness, and of course the child molestation allegations. He was a very controversial figure, his musical legacy aside.

And so that is playing out, to some degree, with the battle over the will and the children and were drugs involved, and all of that.

I'm interested in that. I just think the volume has gotten so high and the coverage has got so relentless, that I think it is turning off a lot of people who are not tuning in or maybe dipping in for five minutes say, hey, wait a minute, there are other things go on in the world.

PILGRIM: Robert, some final thoughts on this?

THOMPSON: Well, for one thing, I think, we should have seen this coming for a mile. We knew that if a story like Michael Jackson's untimely death ever happened we knew exactly what would happen. We've seen this happen before. We know how this cycle works.

And there is absolutely no evidence in the way the news industry is currently operating in this country that this isn't going to happen over and over again when these kinds of stories break.

This shouldn't have surprised us, and we should -- we can just wait, because it's going to happen again. There's no doubt about it.

PILGRIM: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much for your thoughts of this very important topic. Robert Thompson, Howard Kurtz, thank you.

Coming up, we are covering other stories tonight, including thousands of marines hit the ground to drive the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan.

Also new missile tests from North Korea leave many wondering what's next.


PILGRIM: North Korea today test-fired four short-range missiles, adding to the tension in the region.

Now the missiles were fired from the country's east coast. And North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests recently, fired a long-range missile recently. It conducted a nuclear weapons test.

North Korea's long-range missile could reach Hawaii. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, seen North Korea as a very serious threat. They see it as higher than Iran, China, or Russia. A vast majority favors military action if North Korea attempts to hit the U.S. with a missile, 92 percent favor retaliation.

An American soldier in Afghanistan has been captured by insurgents. The U.S. and Afghan officials are seeking his release. The soldier has been missing since Tuesday. He may have left his outpost on his own.

Also today, one marine was killed, several wounded in a massive U.S.-led operation in southern Afghanistan. Nearly 4,000 marines have been deployed along the Helman River valley, and the operation is aimed at driving Taliban forces from the region.

President Obama today said the Supreme Court was "Moving the ball to limit affirmative action." The president was referring to this week's court decision favoring white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. And that ruling reversed a decision by the president's own pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Now, in an interview with the Associated Press, the president said the high court's decision still allows employers to take race into account in hiring or promotion. Steve Presidente (ph), former constitutional law professors, says, quote, "I don't think that hiring on the basis of race alone is constitutionally possible."

Senate Democrats have introduced a revised health care bill. They say it costs less than an earlier proposal. The Congressional Budget Office says the new plan will cost $611 billion over ten years. The previous plan was estimated at $1 trillion.

Now, Senate Democrats are also calling for a government run insurance option and an annual fee on larger companies that offer coverage to their employees.

Now turning to states' budgets troubles. California is about to issue IOUs to pay its bills for the first time in nearly 20 years. About a dozen states have yet to pass their budgets for 2010.

And as states scramble to find more money, there is rising concern over the potential for abuse or wasteful spending. Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For states, it's a matter from going from bad to worse. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, $184 billion is the size of the gaping budget holes expected at the state level between the current fiscal year into 2011.

States are scrambling to find revenue anywhere and in every way they can. A tax amnesty in New Jersey brought in almost $700 million. But the state's new budget cuts money to municipalities and raises state income taxes for the wealthy.

New Jersey is hardly alone. A number of states are raising income taxes and/or corporate taxes and sales taxes. Higher taxes are inevitable, according to Adam Lerrick of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.

ADAM LERRICK, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The first thing they'll do when confronted with a crisis is they'll raise taxes. Then they'll raise fees because people -- they can say those aren't really taxes. They'll raise fees on your driver's license, registration of your car.

TUCKER: In Georgia, the legislature has created a super speeder fine, which adds an additional $200 to some speeding tickets.

New York is targeting not only liquor, but soft drinks.

And there's the federal government. A number of states increasingly are relying on federal tax dollars in the form of stimulus money, which raises another issue, one highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity -- 20 states failed to get a passing grade on financial disclosure practices, meaning that in those states, the legislatures can, among other things, more easily conceal any potential conflict of interest between public dollars and private gain.

BILL BUZENBERG, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Look at the billions and billions of dollars in stimulus money that's flowing to the states that they are spending, and the decisions they're making, again, to cut or raise taxes.

TUCKER: And disclosure does change behavior, according to the center.


TUCKER: That's because disclosure helps to reveal the sometimes not so apparent conflicts of interests between the politicians' own interest and the public's money.

In Louisiana, for example, Rosenberg says that as a result of greater disclosure requirements, there are fewer people who might own or who have ties to large construction companies running for office.

It's just too important in this time when money is so tight -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Bill Tucker.

Well, at the top of the hour, filling in for Campbell Brown is John Roberts. John, what are you working on? JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Kitty, thanks very much.

Just ahead, the hunt for an American soldier kidnapped in Afghanistan and held captive by the Taliban. We'll have the very latest on that for you.

Also, president Obama defends his stimulus plan as unemployment hits a 26-year high.

And of course, we also have the latest from the Michael Jackson investigation, and our mash-up of all the other news coming your way at the top of the hour -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: That's John.

Still ahead, we'll tell you why middle class Americans can't buy homes even as prices continue to fall.


PILGRIM: Home prices, they're down across the country. But homeownership is still just a dream for many middle class Americans. In cities like Las Vegas, real estate investors will to pay cash are profiting from the depressed market.

As Louise Schiavone reports, these investors are beating out first-time buyers in need of mortgages.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newlyweds Yvonne and Michael Proto of Las Vegas are eager to buy their own homes.

YVONNE PROTO, FIRST TIME HOME BUYER: A big kitchen would be nice.

SCHIAVONE: Michael, who is in the recreational vehicle business, wants a two-car garage. There are thousands of available properties in Las Vegas, and for employed first-time home buyers who have saved nearly $10,000 for a down payment, you would think they would be able move out of their apartment.

MICHAEL PROTO, FIRST TIME HOME BUYER: Basically, we're being outbid by all the investors that are coming out of the woodwork now. They can afford to overbid on these foreclosures and short sales, whereas a person like me, I don't have the capital set aside.

SCHIAVONE: This Las Vegas realtor is seeing a lot of that.

ANTHONY DEVRIES, REALTOR: A lot of times the properties are getting snatched up by investors who have cash sitting on the sidelines. I guess that they've been waiting for times like this. And the first-time home buyers are now having a bit of a problem.

SCHIAVONE: It's not just in Las Vegas the experts say. PAUL BISHOP, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS: About 40 percent of the time, investors come to the table with cash. And so that's a pretty substantial advantage in this lending market.

SCHIAVONE: Price drops are dramatic. The median home price in Las Vegas last month was $140,000, 41 percent less than the year before, when it was almost $237,000. By some estimates, upwards of 60 percent of homes in the Las Vegas market are distressed properties, many in foreclosure.

JAY BRINKMANN, MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSOCIATION: So they've got to get the best return. If I can get $99 today versus perhaps $100 with some question as to whether or not it's going to go through in six weeks, the best deal for my stockholders and the best deal for investors might be to take the $99.

SCHIAVONE: The Protos have expressed interest in a dozen houses, no luck so far.


SCHIAVONE: Kitty, investors can't buy every house on the market, say the experts, who advise people like the Protos to maintain good credit, keep saving money, and be patient -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Louise Schiavoni.

Well, a reminder to join Lou on the radio Monday through Friday for the "Lou Dobbs Show."

Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here, goodnight from New York. And now, John Roberts.