It started as a U.K. tabloid report sourcing an unofficial biographer, but it's grown into one of today's most talked about news items — Michael Jackson is rumored to be battling an illness that has left him half-blind and in dire need of a lung transplant. According to Jackson biographer Ian Halperin, the singer is suffering from a disease called Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, or A1AD, a genetic disorder that depletes a protein that protects both the liver and lungs. Jackson is reportedly suffering from chronic gastrointestinal bleeding, 95 percent blindness in his left eye and emphysema, one of the major symptoms of A1AD. Halperin says the illness has left Jackson barely able to speak and adds, "He needs a lung transplant, but may be too weak to go through with it."
This evening, Jackson's "official and sole spokesperson," Dr. Tohme Tohme, issued a statement on the singer's behalf that paints Halperin's assertions as a mere publicity stunt: "The writer's wild allegations concerning Mr. Jackson's health are a total fabrication. Mr. Jackson is in fine health, and finalizing negotiations with a major entertainment company & television network for both a world tour and a series of specials and appearances."
Rolling Stone did some digging today and determined that many of Halperin's other assertions don't hold up. The first line of Halperin's biography reads "Ian Halperin is also a former winner of the Rolling Stone magazine Award for Investigative Journalism." This came as news to us, so we looked in our own archives and discovered this claim has been greatly exaggerated: He did win an RS honor, but it was the College Journalism Award in 1985 and it was split among the staff at Concordia University's student newspaper in Montreal. Halperin also co-wrote a pair of "Kurt Cobain was murdered, maybe" books, scandalous biographies about James Taylor and Celine Dion (title: Behind The Fairytale - A Very, Very, Unauthorized Biography) and a new book called Hollywood Undercover: Revealing the Sordid Secrets of Tinseltown (not exactly The Greatest Generation).
Still, Halperin's claims are intriguing: Jackson was seen in a wheelchair earlier this year and The Sun quotes his brother Jermaine saying, "He's not doing so well right now. This isn't a good time." Plus, Jackson did claim to be sick when he was avoiding that whole Bahrain lawsuit trial in London. We put out calls to Halperin but have yet to get a response.
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