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Sharp reaction to Peter King's statements on Jackson

Reaction to Rep. Peter King's Web video lambasting Michael Jackson and media coverage of his death was sharp , with many commentators seeing his comments through the prism of race.

Feelings about the Seaford Republican's remarks calling the King of Pop "a pervert" and "a pedophile" tended to be strong, whether they agreed with him or not. King said more than 1,000 people called his offices in Massapequa Park and Washington, D.C., with more commenting on the story at

"It's either, 'Thank God we finally have someone with the guts to say the right thing,' or 'You should rot in hell,' " King said. "Almost no one has come out anywhere near the middle."

The controversy sparked coverage on national TV news shows.

>> Photos: Fans mourn loss of Michael Jackson

Political experts said they couldn't see what King has to gain by alienating Jackson fans with remarks seen by many to be racially insensitive. King said he didn't see any racial overtones in the video, posted to YouTube by his campaign staff.

"I don't know that this plays so well in his district unless there are a lot of people in his district that are anti-black," said Stanley Klein, a C.W. Post political science professor who is a Republican and longtime King supporter. "I think this is the most off-the-wall thing that Peter King has ever done."

Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, said King's remarks are "racist, " adding "Sometimes you think you know people... I thought at least he was a decent person. He is like Jim Crow Jr., the way it came out."

Laura Ahern, the executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, said the link between Jackson and alleged child sexual abuse was too strong to ignore.

"It is refreshing to see an elected official say what is really on their mind," Ahern said. "Numerous allegations of child sexual abuse are Michael Jackson's true legacy, one that cash settlements cannot erase."

Because of the media coverage of Jackson's death, King said he felt "an obligation" to speak out. I believe I'm articulating the views of a great majority of the American people, certainly the people around here," he said.

He wasn't the only high-profile politician who has weighed in. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, said of the Jackson coverage: "I've had enough of it . . . It's time to pay our respects and move on."

Some agreed with the substance of what King said but wished he'd been more sensitive. "There is probably a little more sophisticated way of explaining his feelings," said Suffolk Legis. Tom Barraga (R- West Islip), whose district overlaps with King's.

In 1994 Jackson paid $22 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a boy who alleged Jackson abused him. He admitted during a 2003 television interview that he shared a bed with teenage boys, but he was acquitted of child sexual abuse charges in 2005. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with three of Long Island's other four members of Congress, declined to comment.

In Massapequa Park Monday, feelings were split.

"I think he should be worrying about other things instead of worrying about Michael Jackson," said Jaclyn Nigro, 23, of Massapequa Park. Teresa Giametta, 54, of Massapequa, disagreed. "People don't like to hear the truth," she said.

Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine declined to comment. The Rev. Al Sharpton, scheduled to speak at Jackson's memorial service Tuesday, said, "Thank God millions of people openly disagree with Mr. King."

With Kwame Opam and AP

>> Photos: Fans mourn loss of Michael Jackson

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