Gloved One visits Capitol Hill

— From all the fuss that was made over Michael Jackson in Washington this week, you would think he still ruled as The King of Pop.

He walked the halls of the Capitol, met with members of Congress and was lauded for his work fighting AIDS, even as a grand jury in California was hearing testimony in his child molestation case.

Shy and giggling, Jackson said little during his three days in Washington but attracted hordes of reporters. He was trailed by fans, enthusiastic maintenance workers and congressional staffers using their videophones to snap pictures.

"It set Capitol Hill on fire, I can tell you," said Leon Buck, chief of staff to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who helped arrange Jackson's visit. "The congresswoman, she even said she's never said anything like it. When we left there were people running alongside the car. Of course you see it on TV but to actually witness it and see it is amazing."

One staffer even fainted in the hubbub, Buck said.

Like most men on Capitol Hill, Jackson was wearing a suit. But it's safe to say no one else had his fashion sense. His outfit included a satiny, spangled jacket and silver-sequined boots. And he wore pink lipstick.

He flashed peace signs and gave out hugs. At one point he waved a small Israeli flag.

"It's the kind of stuff that you couldn't make up," said Marty Kaplan, director of the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, which studies the intersection of entertainment and politics.

"It could be a skit on 'Saturday Night Live.' I can imagine in a writer's room people pitching it: 'Yeah, and Michael Jackson, while the grand jury's in the middle of the indictment, goes to Congress and behaves like nothing's happened.' And maybe it wouldn't get on the air because people would think it was too big a stretch."

Thursday night, Jackson was being honored at the Ethiopian Embassy by the African Ambassadors' Spouses Assn. for his work fighting AIDS in Africa.

Today he was due back in California for a pretrial hearing in the molestation case.

He was charged last year with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. Jackson has pleaded not guilty.

A grand jury in Santa Barbara is hearing evidence in the case.


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