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EXCUSES WORSE THAN `BLACK OR WHITE’ VIDEO

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The only thing worse than Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video are the excuses coming from Jackson and Fox television in the aftermath of its controversial debut.

For those of you who missed it, the video stirred up considerable controversy for a four-minute segment that showed Jackson repeatedly grabbing his crotch, zipping and unzipping his pants and smashing a car with a sledge hammer. The offensive segment, which came after the end of the song, began with a panther turning into the singer and, according to the statement, it was "Jackson's interpretation of the panther's wild and animalistic behavior."Yeah, right. Head to any zoo and you'll find the panthers grabbing their crotches and smashing cars.

The video premiered last Thursday on Fox, directly following "The Simpsons."

In the wake of the storm of criticism, Jackson decided to edit out the four minutes in question.

"It upsets me to think that `Black or White' could influence any child or adult to destructive behavior, either sexual or violent," Jackson said in a statement released through his publicists.

"I've always tried to be a good role model and therefore have made these changes to avoid any possibility of adversely affecting any individual's behavior. I deeply regret any pain or hurt that the final segment of `Black or White' has caused children, their parents or any other viewers."

Excuse me? Exactly what kind of a role model did he think he was being?

Like there are a lot of parents out there who want their children to strut around grabbing their crotches and smashing car windows.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Fox had shown enough sense to keep the video off the air.

The excuse coming from Fox headquarters is that, because Jackson didn't deliver the "Black or White" video until Tuesday, that didn't give the network enough time to send it back and ask for changes.

There's an easy answer to that. You just don't run it until it meets broadcast standards.

Even that might not work, because it's difficult to detect that Fox has any broadcast standards.

In an official statement released Friday, the networks said: "Based on calls we've received, the strong symbolism used in one sequence overshadowed the film's message about racial harmony. We apologize to anyone who interpreted that sequence as sexually suggestive or violent and was offended."

Excuse me? They're apologizing to anyone who interpreted it as sexually suggestive or violent?

There was no interpretation involved here. To even suggest that the fault lies with the viewers' interpretation is insulting. Despite the apology, Fox executives still can't just stand up and admit their mistake.

And there is no defense for when the video aired. It was seen by an audience of children who had just been watching "The Simpsons."

On MTV, you expect to see lewd, disgusting music videos. (Not that that's an excuse.)

But viewers shouldn't be subjected to that after a show that's largely aimed at kids.GROW UP: All questions of taste aside, "Black or White" was perhaps the most self-indulgent piece of crud Jackson has ever produced.

It would have been cheaper just to film him screaming, "I'm wonderful! I'm marvelous! And boy are you little people lucky to get a look at me!"