Home / Roberts made fun of Jacko in 80’s memo

Roberts made fun of Jacko in 80’s memo

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John Roberts’ legal resume is so impeccable that it is almost superhuman. He went to college at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude, and stayed for law school, graduating magna cum laude. After law school, he clerked for the legendary Judge Friendly at the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, then Justice Reinquist on the Supreme Court of the United States, and later worked as Associate Counsel to the President under Reagan. Between 1986 and 2003, he worked in private practice, and argued before the Supreme Court 39 times (to argue before the Supreme Court even once is usually considered the highlight of a legal career). Finally, he’s spent the last two years serving on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which is widely considered the most important of the federal courts because of it handles most of the cases involving federal agencies.

So the latest story on the Roberts’ confirmation shows a refreshingly human side of the nominee – it turns out Roberts thinks Michael Jackson is annoying, just like everyone else does (well, almost everyone else). Roberts was ahead of the curve, arguing in a 1984 memo that there was no need to issue a Presidential letter praising Jackson for his community service, merely because the singer had requested one:

“The office of presidential correspondence is not yet an adjunct of Michael Jackson’s PR firm,” Roberts wrote in a memo to his boss on June 22, 1984, opposing a request by the singer’s publicist for a presidential letter praising the star’s work against drunken driving.

The Washington Post, which broke the story, couldn’t resist making a reference to one of Jackson’s hits:

It was two decades before Jackson’s celebrated legal troubles, but the prescient Roberts wanted to be startin’ somethin’. A separate memo denying the request, drafted by Roberts for Fred F. Fielding, the White House counsel, says: “I see no need to have the president send a letter to Mr. Jackson, simply because Mr. Jackson’s public relations firm has requested one.”

Roberts even managed to throw a jab at Jackson’s music into the memo:

The request came to the attention of Roberts, who wrote on Sept. 21 to Fielding: “I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson’s records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter. . . . Frankly, I find the obsequious attitude of some members of the White House staff toward Mr. Jackson’s attendants, and the fawning posture they would have the president of the United States adopt, more than a little embarrassing.”

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  • Nancy

    Anyone who could dis Jacko at the height of his fame/popularity can’t possibly be a bad guy.

  • Perhaps if there had just been a few more people willing to say “NO” to Jacko in the day, he might have had a little better sense of his place in the world, and avoided a lot of trouble.

  • Eric Olsen

    great story Thad, and while I disagree with his negative asessment of Jacko’s music in 1984, it took some balls to call a blatant PR move a blatant PR move to the hottest star in the world at the time …
    “remember the time …”

  • A man with that much common sense belongs on the Supreme Court.

    Plus, won’t Jacko who’s always tried to look like a member of the Supremes be miffed if Roberts becomes one.


  • Another sign of how weary of Jackson most people have become is seen in Amazon’s low price for used copies of Dangerous: $0.35. Ouch!

  • RJ

    Great post. I’m really beginning to respect Judge Roberts…

  • The only Supreme Court-music connection I’ve heard of that is more entertaining was Justice Souter’s reference to Modest Mouse in the MGM v. Grokster decision.

    Wonkette on Souter’s passion for the indie-rock band

  • Why was Jan Hermann’s post on this topic taken off the site? I don’t get it and I can’t find it now.

    I found the Roberts comments about Jackson simultaneously witty, excessive, and humorless. He’s a wit but a really, really square one behind those All-American Boy innocent good looks.

    More importantly, the more serious revelations from other memos make it pretty apparent he’ll overturn Roe v. Wade and possibly various civil rights and Title IX protections as well. Anyone who’s taken in by his resume and moderate temperament/demeanor will be surprised to find he’s much, much more like his mentor Rehnquist than he is a moderate politically like O’Connor.

    So the direction of the Court will undoubtedly swing right-ward and threaten many of the legal gains made in society the last 35 years.

    But here’s some funny stuff!

    From excerpts from the Chicago Tribune in the last few days:

    ‘On April 30, 1984, Roberts wrote to oppose a presidential award that was to have been given to Jackson for his efforts against drunken driving.

    Roberts, the Post reports, particularly objected to wording that described Jackson as an “outstanding example” for American youth.

    Roberts wrote: “If one wants the youth of America and the world sashaying around in garish sequined costumes, hair dripping with pomade, body shot full of female hormones to prevent voice change, mono-gloved, well, then, I suppose `Michael,’ as he is affectionately known in the trade, is in fact a good example.”‘


    ‘On May 9, 1984, Roberts wrote about plans for the president to give Michael Jackson an award bearing the presidential seal.

    Roberts had objected to an earlier text of the award citation that appeared to praise Jackson for his commercial success.

    The revision was approved.

    “This version simply notes that his success–an objective fact–is the product of a drug-free lifestyle,” Roberts wrote.

    Days later, Roberts wrote to Fielding on May 11, 1984, about the upcoming Jackson award ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

    In remarks prepared for the president, Reagan was to make humorous comments, including one in which he was to present a “message of love” from “about 100 of our women who work in the White House.”

    The president was then to say, “They all said their name is Billie Jean.”

    Roberts objected.

    “Cognoscenti will recognize the allusion to a character in one of Mr. Jackson’s more popular ballads, a young lass who claims–falsely, according to the oft-repeated refrain of the singer–that the singer is the father of her illegitimate child,” Roberts wrote.

    “This may be someone’s idea of presidential humor, but it certainly is not mine.”‘

    That is all.

  • Babs, for reasons I haven’t really investigated the Herman posts sometimes disappear and then reappear. Personally I’d prefer if they just disappeared and stayed that way.


  • Thanks, Dave.

    You really don’t like him? I don’t read him much because no one seems to comment on what he says (nor does he), but it seems like pretty decent stuff when I have. And it appears he’s the featured writer on this site?

    I don’t think there’s anything sinister to it, by any means. I was just wondering where it went.

    That is all.

  • Can’t stand him. All he does is make snide comments and basically repeat ultra-left talking points propaganda. He’s full of hate and IMO he’s a full-blown idiot.


  • Fair enough, Dave 🙂 Tell us what you really think.

    That was pretty funny, though.

    I’d hate to hear how you’d describe me. Give it a shot if you want. I’m sure I’ll be tickled by it.

    That is all.