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Since 1st March, 1999
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Jackson roommate’s mom trashes Bashir scoop

Feb. 9: The mother of the 12-year-old boy who admitted that he had shared a bedroom with Michael Jackson has defended the singer and reported Martin Bashir’s documentary to the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Janet Ventura-Arvizo said yesterday that Bashir’s interview with the 44-year-old American performer, titled Living with Michael Jackson, was a “gross distortion of the truth” that breached broadcasting guidelines governing interviews with children.

She has now instructed Theodore Goddard, the London law firm, to lodge official complaints with the commission, which oversees British television, and the Independent Television Commission, the ITV watchdog.

Both forbid interviews with children under 16 without the express permission of a parent or guardian.

In her first public comment on the ITV documentary, which was broadcast on British television last Monday, Ventura-Arvizo, who lives in Los Angeles, says she was appalled by the two-hour programme and the way it used her son, Gavin. She claims that Bashir and his Granada team failed to obtain her written consent for the interview, in accordance with rules laid down by the BSC and ITC.

She also attacked the presenter’s commentary, which alluded to previous child sex allegations against the star. She claimed that those allusions distorted her son’s relationship with the singer.

In a statement issued through Jackson’s London representative, she said: “I am appalled at the way in which my son has been exploited by Martin Bashir and Granada Television. At no time did either I or Gavin’s father sign a consent form for Gavin to be interviewed by Granada Television, which I believe is a legal requirement both in the US and in England, as Gavin is a minor.” She added: “I would never have given consent for Gavin to appear in Bashir’s film which, in my opinion, is a complete distortion of the truth about Michael Jackson, as I know and admire him.”

Two of Ventura-Arvizo’s other children, Star and Davellin, have also stayed at the star’s Neverland ranch. She claims that Jackson is like a father to them and has been a tremendous help to Gavin, who has been battling cancer.

She said: “At no time has Gavin ever been treated with anything other than love, respect and the deepest kindness by Michael. Michael has been so important in Gavin being able to recover from cancer. His constant support, both practical and emotional, helped give my beautiful little boy the strength to fight his cancer.”

Jackson’s aides hope that the complaint by Gavin’s mother will stem a wave of criticism engulfing the singer a week after the film was aired. His admission that he continues to share his bed with children, a decade after he was embroiled in a child sex lawsuit, is threatening to destroy his career and could yet be the subject of a police inquiry.

Critics, however, are bound to question Ventura-Arvizo’s motives, particularly after she admitted receiving gifts from the star. She was unavailable for comment last night after being moved by the singer’s aides to a secret location.

At the centre of the dispute is the boy’s disclosure to Bashir that he has shared the singer’s bedroom and even slept in his bed. In the documentary, which was watched by more than 35 million viewers when it was broadcast again on American television on Thursday, Gavin told the reporter how he had slept in the bed while Jackson had slept on the floor.

Bashir’s subsequent questions about the boy’s parents suggest that the reporter might not have spoken to them about the sleepovers. At one stage he asks: “Were your parents happy that you were here with Michael' Did they come with you'”

In the commentary towards the end of the documentary that has infuriated Gavin’s mother, Bashir states that he “felt very uneasy after this conversation”.

The complaint is the latest in a series of controversies involving Bashir, who came to prominence when he interviewed Diana, Princess of Wales for the BBC’s Panorama in 1995.

Granada Television insists that the programme was completed in accordance with proper procedures. A spokesman said: “We will be responding to the regulators when they raise these complaints with us. Until then it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

The broadcaster refused to say last night whether permission had been sought from Gavin’s parents but insisted that all proper procedures had been followed.

In 1994 Jackson was accused of molesting 13-year-old Jody Chandler. The star denied the allegations but paid the boy’s parents £18 million to drop a civil case against him.

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