WASHINGTON — The controversy that has followed Michael Jackson, in life and in death, reached the halls of Congress on Thursday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said she saw no point to scheduling a vote on a resolution honoring the pop icon.
Senior lawmakers had feared the resolution would set off an ugly debate that could hurt Congress' image and upset the Jackson family.
They were probably right, given that Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) stormed off the House floor during a moment of silence for Jackson two weeks ago, later telling radio talk show host John Ziegler that he was "almost nauseated" by it.
And then there was Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who bemoaned what he considered to be the excessive media coverage of Jackson's death. King called the pop star a "low life" and "pervert."
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) responded that King "should be ashamed of himself for politically exploiting the tragic death of the music superstar," and called on his colleague to apologize to Jackson's family and fans.
Pelosi said she did not think it was necessary for Congress to have a resolution to honor Jackson.
"What I have said to my colleagues over the years . . . is that there is opportunity on the floor of the House to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish," she said. "A resolution, I think, would open up to contrary views that are not necessary at this time."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, declined to comment Thursday on Pelosi's decision.
The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who attended the Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The resolution called for honoring Jackson as a "global humanitarian and a noted leader in the fight against worldwide hunger and medical crises" and celebrating him as an "accomplished contributor to the worlds of arts and entertainment."
Some lawmakers have paid tribute to Jackson from the House floor.
"I know some people in this esteemed chamber would consider all of the hoopla surrounding the death of Michael Jackson to be unnecessary," Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said this week. "I know there are some generations that preceded mine that have no idea about the music of Michael Jackson."
Yarmuth, in an interview, said that he walked out of the chamber during the moment of silence because he was "upset that we were interrupting the legislative business. . . . It had nothing to do with [Jackson]. I would have said the same thing if it was Elvis."