Action Item: Vanity Fair

Willa: This week we present another action item we feel could significantly change public perceptions of Michael Jackson. This time we’re focusing on Vanity Fair and one of its writers, Maureen Orth. Together they are responsible for a string of articles that are deeply racist, sexually explicit, and poorly researched. Much of the content of these articles is false. In fact, while they are presented as journalism, they often seem to be little more than bizarre fantasies that occasionally border on pornography.

For example, in April 2003 Vanity Fair published an article by Maureen Orth titled “Losing His Grip.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

“David Geffen, be gone! Steven Spielberg, be gone!” The witch doctor cursing Michael Jackson’s enemies and blessing the tarnished King of Pop himself in a voodoo ritual in Switzerland in the summer of 2000 had promised that the 25 people on Jackson’s enemies list, some of whom had worked with him for years, would soon expire. The voodoo man later assured one close observer of the scene that David Geffen, who headed the list, would die within the week. But Geffen’s demise did not come cheap. Jackson had ordered his then business adviser, Myung-Ho Lee, a U.S.-educated Korean lawyer based in Seoul, to wire $150,000 to a bank in Mali for a voodoo chief named Baba, who then had 42 cows ritually sacrificed for the ceremony.

Jackson had already undergone a blood bath. The pop star, who is said to be $240 million in debt, had paid six figures for a ritual cleansing using sheep blood to another voodoo doctor and a mysterious Egyptian woman named Samia, who came to him with a letter of greeting from a high-ranking Saudi prince, purportedly Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, now the chief of intelligence of Saudi Arabia. She had taken an eager Jackson to her basement in Geneva, where, he later told associates, he saw with his own eyes piles of $100 bills which Samia said totaled $300 million. It was “free money,” she said; he could have it, and she could also get him a villa and a yacht. She arranged to have three men fly from Switzerland, at Jackson’s expense, to Neverland, his luxurious California ranch, to discuss further deals. When the hex delegation arrived at Neverland, Jackson asked Lee to authorize $1 million in cash to be brought to the ranch. Lee refused, but Jackson obtained the money by other means. Lee found out about it only when a $20,000 bill came for an armored truck.

Jackson, in turn, sent Lee to Geneva to check out yet another voodoo doctor, whose specialty was pulling money out of thin air. At the Hôtel d’Angleterre, the voodoo man produced a show of sound, lights, and pigeons before leading his visitors one at a time into the bathroom, where the tub was full of cash amounting, he claimed, to $50 million. When they asked where it had come from, he said, “The U.S. Federal Reserve.” There was just one catch: all this money would disappear unless Michael Jackson paid thousands of dollars for the blood of a number of fowl and small animals for yet another ritual. The sacrificial animals were already assembled at a location on the French-Swiss border, waiting to die to make Jackson’s wishes come true. Lee was horrified and left in disgust.

This is poppycock. It never happened. Orth’s far-fetched story of “a voodoo ritual in Switzerland” is simply not supported by the evidence, such as Michael Jackson’s well documented love of animals and abhorrence of violence or – more specifically – the extensive and detailed records of the Federal Office of Agriculture (FOAG) in Switzerland.

“In the summer of 2000,” when Orth claims this voodoo ritual took place, Switzerland and most of Europe was engaged in intense efforts to eradicate bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease.” BSE is a neurological disease that is fatal to infected cattle, and potentially fatal to the people who eat them. According to a report by the European Food Safety Administration (EFSA), the first confirmed case of BSE in cattle appeared in the UK in 1986 and then spread to Europe, probably through commercial cattle feed containing meat-bone meal from infected animals. Since that time, Switzerland has had 453 confirmed cases of BSE.

In 1996, a kind of “mad cow” hysteria swept Europe and the US after BSE was linked with a series of unexplained human deaths. As the EFSA report explains, these fears were fueled by

a media outbreak of apocalyptic scenarios sketching a man-made disaster of then unpredictable proportions. Health authorities were frantically acting to limit damage from BSE not only to human health, but also to agriculture, economies, political credibility and public confidence.

In response, many European countries, including Switzerland, implemented rigorous cattle identification and registration programs that track every cow from birth through slaughter and processing.

Given this background, I thought the FOAG might be able to provide insight into Orth’s wild claims of voodoo rituals involving animal sacrifice – specifically, the ritualized killing of 42 cows (not to mention the “fowl and small animals” that were allegedly gathered for sacrifice “on the French-Swiss border”). So I talked to some friends in Germany, and they contacted the FOAC. After some research, the FOAG informed them that they have no knowledge of an event such as Orth describes, nor any evidence indicating that such an event might have occurred.

So why would Orth believe such an outlandish story, and why would she want to begin her article this way – with a preposterous voodoo tale that casts doubt over her entire article? Susan Woodward addresses that question in her book, Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics, which devotes a chapter to Maureen Orth:

This is, in its way, the perfect scene with which to begin her article, incorporating white racial fear, violence and expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars, themes that run throughout the article.

In other words, Orth believed this story because she was predisposed to believe it, and because she wanted to believe it. It aligns with underlying cultural and racial biases, and in many ways seems to encapsulate how she sees Michael Jackson – as someone who embodied a frightening otherness. In fact, she presents him as so completely Other that at times he seems scarcely human. Susan explains this fear of his difference more fully in her book, and in a post we did a few weeks ago where she talks about her book.

But where did this bizarre and deeply racist story that Michael Jackson engaged in voodoo practices come from? Orth’s sole source seems to be Myung-Ho Lee, who served for a short time as Michael Jackson’s business adviser before being fired for fraud and incompetence. Myung-Ho Lee then filed a $12 million lawsuit for breach of contract, and Michael Jackson’s lawyers counter-sued, saying Lee had “stolen millions.”

As Susan points out in her book,

In addition to the obvious fact that Lee’s lawsuit would render him a questionable source, the story of the voodoo rites is contradictory to everything known about Jackson, who loved animals, was a vegetarian for many years and had a decades long grounding in a Christian church.

Ironically, the original source of this story may have been Michael Jackson himself, as Susan goes on to explain:

The actual inspiration for Lee’s story of the voodoo ceremonies may be something that Jackson himself said to journalist J. Randy Taraborrelli in 1995, in expressing his enormous frustration with the media’s fabricated or wildly inaccurate stories about him: “Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say …”

Importantly, in this quotation Michael Jackson refers to voodoo mockingly – not as someone who seriously believes in it. In fact, he uses it as an extreme example of just how gullible some journalists and their readers could be. And he was right. Lee’s wild stories of voodoo rituals were believed by a lot of people, including Maureen Orth and her editors at Vanity Fair.

This is not the only time Myung-Ho Lee misled Orth into reporting false stories. For example, in March 2004 Vanity Fair published an article titled “Neverland’s Lost Boys,” in which Orth implied that Michael Jackson intoxicated a 13-year-old boy, Richard Matsuura, with wine served in soda cans. It also said that Matsuura’s father became so upset when he found out that he cancelled plans for an amusement park development project. Once again Orth’s source was Myung-Ho Lee, and once again the story is untrue.

In an interview with Mike Taibbi, Richard Matsuura denounced the story as “completely false.” (At the time of the interview, he was 18 years old and a college student.) Importantly, he says Orth did not contact either him or his father for verification before publishing this story about them. Here is Taibbi’s segment for NBC News:

As Taibbi reports, “Matsuura says Jackson never said or did anything inappropriate in the four days he spent in his company.” According to Taibbi, NBC News interviewed Matsuura’s father as well and he corroborated his son’s statements.

NBC News also contacted Maureen Orth, who Taibbi describes as “one of the recognized experts on the Jackson saga,” and she said she “stands by her source for the story,” Myung-Ho Lee. Vanity Fair then issued a statement saying they had contacted Lee, and he said, “I’ve read the Vanity Fair article. I stand by everything I said in the article.” However, following NBC’s broadcast of the Matsuura interview, Vanity Fair deleted all mention of him from the online version of Orth’s article.

These are simply two examples of Orth’s sloppy research, her willingness to believe sordid stories about Michael Jackson with very little research or skepticism, and Vanity Fair‘s willingness to print those stories without corroborating evidence. There are many other examples.

For example, later in the “Losing His Grip” article, Orth claims he was missing his nose and wore a prosthesis instead. As she wrote, “One person who has seen him without the device says he resembles a mummy with two nostril holes.” This is patently false, as verified by the autopsy report following his death.

However, this rumor was disproven long before he died, when his face was examined by representatives of The Daily Mirror in November 1998. Susan and I talked about this in our post a few weeks ago. According to a BBC report about the incident, the Mirror had published an article about him in June 1992, saying he was “hideously disfigured by extensive plastic surgery” and that he had “a hole in his nose, one cheek higher than the other and a sagging chin.” Michael Jackson sued, and later met with Mirror representatives who examined his face. According to a November 10, 1998, article in Variety,

Jackson reportedly allowed himself to be examined without makeup for 40 minutes in a suite at the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles in the company of doctors and lawyers for both sides of the case.

Afterwards, “Mirror Group Newspapers and the paper’s former editor Richard Stott acknowledged that Michael Jackson was neither hideously disfigured nor scarred,” according to the BBC. This was in November 1998, yet Orth was still promoting false rumors about his nose more than four years later.

So what can we do?

One option is to contact Vanity Fair and politely and respectfully inform them that the voodoo story at the beginning of Maureen Orth’s April 2003 article, “Losing His Grip,” is factually incorrect, deeply racist, and sensationalistic – and there are numerous other inaccuracies in her articles as well. (If you’d like to do your own fact checking, this page at Vanity Fair‘s website lists all of Maureen Orth’s articles on Michael Jackson. It also provides a brief overview and a link to each one.)

Vanity Fair requests that readers contact them through email. As they say in their latest issue, “Send all editorial, business, and production correspondence electronically to vfmail@vf.com.” They don’t provide a mailing address for editorial correspondence.

Another option is to contact Snopes.com, a popular site for checking urban myths, and tell them the Vanity Fair voodoo story is untrue. Here’s a link to an online form for submitting information to them. Unfortunately, Snopes itself contains a lot of misinformation about Michael Jackson. Like Wikipedia, most of its information is provided by readers, so the quality of its entries varies a lot. Correcting all the misinformation on Snopes could be – and probably should be – a series of action items in itself.

If you decide to contact Vanity Fair (or Snopes), here are some talking points you may want to consider:

  • Records at the Federal Office of Agriculture in Switzerland do not support Orth’s claim that a witchdoctor sacrificed 42 cows on behalf of Michael Jackson. Vanity Fair can verify this independently if they’d like, using contact information available on the FOAG’s website.
  • The voodoo story appears to be part of a pattern of sloppy and sensationalized reporting in Orth’s articles on Michael Jackson. Her articles frequently include misleading, exaggerated, or highly suspect claims that are later shown to be false.
  • Orth’s sole source for the voodoo story seems to be Myung-Ho Lee, and this is not the only time Lee told Orth an untrue story: Lee was also behind the Richard Matsuura story. Matsuura himself later told NBC News the story was “completely false,” and his father denied it as well.

You may also want to suggest that quietly removing the false voodoo story, as they did with the Richard Matsuura story, is not sufficient. Vanity Fair needs to correct some of the damage they’ve done by publicly acknowledging and correcting these falsehoods. Journalistic integrity demands it.

As we mentioned last week, we don’t want to put anyone in an awkward or uncomfortable position. However, if you are willing to contact Vanity Fair, we may be able to convince them to report on Michael Jackson more professionally in the future, and maybe fix some of the damage they’ve done in the past.

Note: We wanted to tell everyone about a fascinating new article by Lubov Fadeeva, a professional dancer and choreographer who specializes in flamenco dancing. Fadeeva views dance through its ancient origins as a sacred ritual, and she brings that perspective to her appreciation of Michael Jackson as a dancer, calling him a “shaman of the great stage.” As she says, “When Michael Jackson hit the stage, he danced in ecstasy.” It is, quite simply, the best article I’ve ever read about Michael Jackson and dance. We’ve added Fadeeva’s article to our Reading Room, along with a 30th anniversary article about “We are the World” that includes some really fun behind-the-scenes video clips.

 

 

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on January 29, 2015, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. 💦💋: LMAO! SMH! Geez do they ever stop.. Ppl off they meds💊💉📝🐠

  2. I’m in the EU and I have once worked for an agricultural company so I know for a fact that in European countries there are strict rules for registering cows after birth. Although Switzerland is not in the EU (France is though) but since it’s a highly developed country I would not expect any different rules there. So it’s simply impossible for 42 cows suddenly going missing and no one noticing it. The story is very obviously BS and the fact that when it comes to MJ an allegedly “reputable” publication can publish such a BS story with a straight face is just telling about how low journalism has sunk.

    This story always reminded me of the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic in the 1980s and how the sensationalist media back then gave child abuse allegations such a spin to make them even more spicy for mass consumption (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Remembers ). I see this as a similar attempt by Orth.

    “NBC News also contacted Maureen Orth, who Taibbi describes as “one of the recognized experts on the Jackson saga,” and she said she “stands by her source for the story,” Myung-Ho Lee. Vanity Fair then issued a statement saying they had contacted Lee, and he said, “I’ve read the Vanity Fair article. I stand by everything I said in the article.” However, following NBC’s broadcast of the Matsuura interview, Vanity Fair deleted all mention of him from the online version of Orth’s article.”

    Things like these make me so hopeless of any fairness by certain representatives of the media towards MJ. I mean it’s one thing to delete any references of Matsuura from the article, but after they released a statement earlier in support of Lee’s claims, didn’t they feel now that they owe a statement and an apology to MJ and Matsuura? Of course, they knew if they publicly acknowledge that one part of the article was false then it would make the whole article and Orth herself questionable, so they just quietly deleted those parts and acted like they were never there.

    To be honest, this tells me that Vanity Fair does not intend to be fair and balanced towards MJ and they do not intend to practice fair and genuine journalism when it comes to him. They simply want to trash him due to sensationalism, like any tabloid. Sad.

    BTW, another source of Orth that she heavily relied on was Victor Gutierrez and we all know about him as well.

  3. Hi Willa, while I haven’t yet read this post (and fully intend to as the day progresses), I’ve been checking comments on the previous post about KCBS to see if anyone has been successful in getting a response from the station or from Levin, as I’m quite sure anyone who at least received an acknowledgment would let us know as encouragement to press on with further inquiry. Sadly, I myself received no response from either the station or Levin. So frustrating media’s unwillingness to investigate when challenged.

    • Hi June Elizabeth. I’m surprised as well, especially that there’s been no response from Harvey Levin. I imagine he’s very busy, but still … I assumed he would want to talk about his piece with Evan Chandler. I mean, that’s quite a scoop! And it’s still important information.

  4. Thank you ladies.

  5. Hello guys! Long time no talk! When I saw this post, I jumped out of my seat because I’ve done so much research on that QUACK Maureen Orth, and I have a few posts that will be helpful to you.

    My colleague Helena, the owner of the Vindicate MJ blog, wrote this post a few years ago to debunk the “MJ sacrificed cows in bathtub” nonsense: https://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/did-voodoo-kill-michael-jackson-a-sociological-study-of-the-media-and-public/

    Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago about self-professed “Christians” like Orth who have lied and slandered MJ in the press: https://michaeljacksonvindication2.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/fact-checking-michael-jacksons-christian-faith-part-4-of-6-so-called-christians-who-have-lied-against-michael/ In this post, I showed how Orth deleted all references to Richard Matsuurra in the online version of her article “Neverland’s Lost Boys”, but fortunately I scanned a copy of the original article and included it in the post.

    That post also includes the complete Nightline episode from June 2005 (during jury deliberations) which included Orth and a few other losers speculating on everything about the case except the exonerating evidence.

    There are a few other things that we’ve written about Orth, and as I find them I’ll send them to you. Thanks guys!

    • Hi sanemjfan. Thanks for the links. I haven’t had a chance to read through them yet, but I noticed the second post you linked to includes some video clips of Maureen Orth herself talking about Michael Jackson and the 2005 trial, I think. I’m curious to listen to those. Thank you.

  6. I think it was last year that Vanity Fair had a contest to pick the favorite magazine cover. MJ fans of course voted for his famous cover, and when he surged ahead in the poll, suddenly the voting process no longer worked if you voted for MJ. Fans accused VF of rigging the vote so MJ would not win. We were so vocal in protesting that VF actually had to respond to it and the voting process started working again for MJ. His cover ended up winning. I bring this up to point out that the editors of VF have never liked Michael, and I do not think that our complaints to them will have any impact, unfortunately.

    • Yes, I remember that. Didn’t VF try to make some lame Twilight cover over the fantastic photos of MJ by Annie Leibovitz?

    • “I bring this up to point out that the editors of VF have never liked Michael”

      You know, the Maureen Orth articles are inexcusable – just beyond the pale – and that certainly says something about the editorial leadership at Vanity Fair. They should have policies in place that make sure claims – especially wild claims like Myung-Ho Lee’s – are verified by a second source or other corroborating evidence before printing them.

      However, Lisa Robinson has written a couple of lovely articles about Michael Jackson for Vanity Fair, including one in 1989 – in fact, that’s where that incredible Annie Leibovitz photoshoot came from, including the shot that became their “best cover ever.” And I really appreciated the article she wrote, and Vanity Fair published, in September after he died. So I think the editors’ views on Michael Jackson are a little more complicated than that.

      btw, here’s an audio clip of Lisa Robinson talking about her first interview with Michael Jackson when he was 14, as well as other interviews over the years:

      It includes snippets of his voice from different time periods, and it’s really interesting to hear how his speaking voice matures over time. He definitely sounds like a little boy in the first interview, and then you can hear the changes as he became a teenager and young adult.

  7. Since I have a chapter in my book devoted to Orth’s article “Losing His Grip,” let me just list the reasons I found the article to be so poorly researched, in addition to the reasons that Willa cites. On the surface, the article appears to be extensively researched, but of Orth’s 55 or so sources (the exact number is hard to pin down because she uses multiple unnamed sources) about 2/3 are anonymous. Three sources, including Myung-Ho Lee, were involved in suing MJ at the time Orth talked to them. The sheer number of her sources is impressive, until you take a closer look at who they are.

    One of Orth’s most inappropriate sources is Victor Gutierrez, who wrote a scurrilous book about MJ and who was successfully sued by MJ after Gutierrez falsely claimed to have a videotape of him having sex with a minor. Orth also quotes unnamed plastic surgeons and plastic surgeon Dr. Tina Alster, who never met MJ. Other sources are as vague as “sources formerly close to Jackson,” “one close observer,” and “others.”

    One of the most damaging allegations made in the article comes purely from unnamed sources. Orth says that unnamed prosecutors informed her that MJ bought the silence of alleged victims and witnesses in 1993, thus avoiding prosecution. California had then, and still has, a law against “dissuading a victim or witness.” If a prosecutor had been aware that MJ had paid people not to cooperate with law enforcement, they most certainly would have charged him with a crime. He was never charged with this crime, therefore one simply has to conclude that it never happened. Orth and Vanity Fair were apparently willing to just treat this allegation of criminal behavior as fact.

    Orth catalogues at length the alleged crimes of Anthony Pellicano, who worked as an investigator for MJ’s attorney in 1993. Pellicano worked on MJ’s case in 1993 for only about six months, nine years before Orth’s article was printed, but she implies that Pellicano acted as a thug at the behest of MJ, intimidating witnesses, threatening others, and stealing Jackson defense documents from a reporter. She offers no proof of this, however. Pellicano eventually was convicted of crimes and went to prison, but for wire-tapping and conspiracy charges, none of which was connected to his work for MJ.

    Some of Orth’s inaccuracies are more benign, but call into question the credibility of her sources and her article as a whole. For example, she talked to Pat Murphy, who had written a book called “Santa Ynez Valley Secrets,” a gossipy book about residents of the area MJ lived in. Murphy tells Orth that “when Michael Jackson first moved to the valley he was a very nice-looking African-American man with brown skin. Now he’s a white woman.” Besides the latter part of that quotation being very silly, the first part is not true and is easy to fact-check. MJ’s skin was, in fact, quite light when he moved to Neverland ranch in May 1988.

    This article is a discouraging look into what can constitute “journalism.” And very frightening to think that this is supposed to be “the first draft of history.” Anyone who knows the truth about Michael Jackson knows the damage that Orth and others did to him by writing about him so irresponsibly. I join Willa in urging readers to contact Vanity Fair about retracting this article or issuing an acknowledgement that Orth’s article contains inaccuracies.

    • Hi Susan. Thank you so much for sharing what you found while fact-checking Orth’s article. She was very careless about doing her own fact-checking, as the voodoo story shows, and I agree she did a tremendous amount of damage to Michael Jackson and his reputation. But as he said on more than one occasion, “lies run sprints but the truth runs marathons.” I sincerely believe that. I think we are already seeing major shifts in perceptions about him, and I think that will continue.

      So I believe when future generations look back at him and the hysteria he faced, they will interpret things very differently than people generally do today. I mean, when we look back at the Salem witch trials, we don’t criticize the people executed as witches. We criticize the people who accused them, and who helped inflame the hysteria….

  8. I don’t understand the thinking here at all. Why is there any expectation that Vanity fair will suddenly be stricken with a case of conscience, and retract this article? Vanity Fair is a glossy gossip rag. It’s what they do. If they cared about accuracy and fairness, they would have had fact-checkers on the article in the first place.

    There is certainly plenty of evidence to disprove many facts in her article, I just don’t understand why we think showing all your cards to the other player is a smart move.

    • Hi Elizabeth. I think Vanity Fair would like to be seen as more than “a glossy gossip rag.” Just as Rolling Stone likes to show it’s more than a music magazine by covering politics and cultural issues, Vanity Fair would like to show it’s more than a fashion and celebrity gossip magazine by regularly running articles on politics and business. And one of their contributing writers is Carl Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein fame. (They are the two Washington Post reporters who tenaciously covered the Watergate break-in, eventually connecting it back to the Republican Party and Richard Nixon, leading to his resignation.)

      So I think Vanity Fair would like to be seen as combining fashion and celebrity articles with “serious” reporting. But if they want to be taken seriously, they have to hold themselves to certain journalistic standards, which include running corrections when you are wrong.

      • Willa,

        I profoundly disagree with your assessment of Vanity Fair. They love scandals. They exist for scandals. I think you would do far better to take this evidence to a competing publication.

        Here is a recent video of Anderson Cooper, Sunny Hostin, and Michael Wolff (columnist for the Vanity Fair for many years), debating the Woody Allen situation. Wolff describes the process of how Mia got Vanity Fair to do a piece in favor of her son Ronan – she gave them the newest gossip on Woody Allen. Wolff is saying its quid pro quo, in order to get favorable coverage, you have to serve them a sacrificial lamb.

        Maybe you could research just who got favorable coverage in exchange for the voodoo story on Michael. But I believe you will damage your case by disclosing the evidence of lies to VF. They fully know what are doing. Far better to take the story to a competing publication and let them investigate.

        http://www.gemistvoornmt.nl/a.aspx/1391491475/12

    • ‘Why is there any expectation that Vanity fair will suddenly be stricken with a case of conscience, and retract this article’;

      I couldnt agree with you more. Why focus on an article written ages ago that only MJ fans still talk about. Anyone with a half brain will see how ridiculous the story is and if they dont nothing helps. Leveling with the culprits also does not help.
      Charles Thompsons article ‘One of the most shamefull episodes .. ” in the Huffington Post had more impact than any other media critical article written since Michael died.
      I believe more in that kind of action, if any, than trying to get a mea culpa from people who have moved on a long time ago.

      • Hi Elizabeth and Sina. You appear to be right, and this hasn’t done much to change Vanity Fair‘s position – though they have removed two of Maureen Orth’s articles on Michael Jackson from their website, including “Losing His Grip.” So there has been some progress, but I was really hoping they would print a correction or retraction of some of their shoddy reporting and there’s no indication they intend to do that. But I’m not sorry I tried. It seemed the right thing to do. To be honest, though, I’m really looking forward to getting back to talking about his art. That’s what really motivates me, and I’m eager to get back to it…

        • But I’m not sorry I tried.

          You shouldnt be. Willa. Better to have done something, even if it didnt have the result you wished for , than to have done nothing at all.

          • Willa,

            Thank you for your courageous and persistent hammering of VF. I read all five of Orth’s articles not long after Michael died. It was very painful – but necessary for me as I’m a believer that you have to know your enemy – as I was a new fan then but not so new that I didn’t know she was on some kind of “journalistic” exorcism. Her hatred for Michael is palpable and IMO very personal. There are red flags all over her writings that indicate an internal personal seething that goes much deeper than Michael Jackson. I think for a while after Russert died she got away with her personal hit man crusade but people have increasingly realized the viciousness and complete abandonment of professional ethics when she deals with Jackson( and maybe other hapless victims, too, but I’ve never bothered to read anything else she’s ever written and stopped reading VF all together).

            I hope your efforts have resulted in a permanent removal of the offending articles but I have to tell you that VF has taken them down in the past (a couple years ago) but then they return them, obviously once the heat is off being the shameless cowards that they are. When I initially read all 5 articles I made hard copies of them intuiting that this now-you-see-them/now-you-don’t would probably occur. I’m sure many others did also. They can never really hide their sins.

            IMO, Orth is a miserable, bitter, vindictive, sadistic, ruthless, incendiary being. It I didn’t find her so contemptible, I could maybe – maybe – feel sorry for her. She and Dimond and Gutierrez make one unholy, catastrophic trinity.

        • Did they just now remove them as a result of your efforts? If so, that’s huge! Good for you!!!!!

          • I think so. I mean, those articles have been up for years, and they just took them down this week. And it happens to be the two articles we talked about – “Losing His Grip,” which began with the voodoo story, and “Neverland’s Lost Boys,” which had the Richard Matsuura story. But I’m worried they’ll stop there – with removing the articles without correcting the falsehoods they helped spread.

          • Looks like they took down all articles prior to 2007 http://www.vanityfair.com/sitemap
            There are still MJ articles after that date. The timing is very strange! Maybe you did get them concerned. They had to know those articles were BS. It is good that 5 pieces of junk are off the internet. Bonus points for you.

          • Hi Elizabeth. I’m not sure what that’s about, but Orth’s “Nightmare in Neverland” article is still up, and it was published in January 1994. So is her “Jackson Jive” article, which was published in September 1995. But they’ve taken down the two articles we talked about, which were published in 2003 and 2005.

            They’ve also taken down “Michael Jackson is Gone, but the Sad Facts Remain” (published June 2009) where she repeated the voodoo story and then wrote, “nothing that Vanity Fair printed was ever challenged legally by Jackson or his associates” … as if that’s the journalistic standard her articles should be judged by. I mean, that seems to be the standard the tabloids have adopted – that if you aren’t sued for the stories you print, then they’re acceptable. But I have to say, if that’s Vanity Fair‘s idea of journalism, then they really are just a tabloid.

  9. LunaJo67’s four-part series on Maureen Orth:



  10. I don’t consider Orth a journalist or a writer. To me, she is a hater with a pen and a platform to spew her hatred of Michael Jackson. She is in the same category as Stacy Brown and Diane Dimond – the absolute dregs. Just because she was the wife of Tim Russert, this gives her some kind of credibility to the general public.

    Twenty-four hours had not even passed after Michael Jackson had died before she was on TheToday Show and Morning Joe spewing her vile nastiness to anyone who would listen.

    I cannot find the actual footage of those particular interviews but here is a link that gives a general idea:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/06/26/747080/-Maureen-Orth-must-be-a-really-sad-and-bitter-human-being

    Just one other example. Out of the blue, apropos of nothing, while discussing the Peace Corp she says this (5th Paragraph of the article):

    “Just trying to fit in at any level as one constantly has to do in the Peace Corps has served me in good stead, whether I was listening to heartbreaking tales of naive, star-struck parents allowing their little boys to spend too much time with Michael Jackson or uncovering Arianna Huffington’s fierce loyalty and reliance on her odd guru, John-Roger, to cite just two examples.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/25/opinion/la-oe-orth-peacecorps-20110225

    This woman lacks basic compassion and I would hope if you are in the Peace Corps or claim to be a journalist that would be one trait you would have in your character.

    I know it has become a cliche, but I really don’t understand how people like her can sleep at night. She is not stupid. She knows she is lying. It is very disturbing to think how these so-called “journalists” helped destroy an innocent man’s name and reputation.

    • Hi Susan (other Susan). I tend to disagree. I think Maureen Orth and Diane Dimond and many others really do believe what they say. As incredible as it seems, I think Maureen Orth really does believe Michael Jackson participated in voodoo rituals in Switzerland, complete with animal sacrifices and a chanting witchdoctor.

      To me, the more interesting question is why does she believe such things? It’s true she had a financial incentive to write sensationalized stories that attracted attention and controversy, so had an incentive not to be too skeptical of those wild stories. But also I think there’s a lot more going on than that, as Susan Woodward discusses in her book, Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics.

  11. How long ago did Maureen Orth write these Vanity Fair pieces and do these interviews?

    • Hi Nina. Orth wrote five articles on Michael Jackson for Vanity Fair, which were published in January 1994, September 1995, April 2003, March 2004, and July 2005. She also published a book, The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex, in 2004 that is a collection of her Vanity Fair articles, including one on Michael Jackson.

  12. Hi Willa, I agree with you when you point out that there is a lot going on when it comes to media people and Michael Jackson especially in the USA and in British Tabloids.I live in the EU and I assure you there isn’t such hatred towards Michael in the rest of Europe. An important left wing paper in my country has recently paid a great homage to Michael by issuing his entire art work ;the collection was entitled The King is back.The question is that racial bias are at the basis of this hate.After Michael grew up and started to express his freedom from ethnic and social boundaries he was seen as potentially dangerous for the status quo due to the enormous impact of his statements all over the world.Let”s not forget that more than one billion people watched his commemoration at the Staple Center after his passing away.

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