Michael Jackson, already feuding with his record company, charged Saturday that the recording industry was a racist conspiracy that turns profits at the expense of performers -- particularly minority

Michael Jackson, already feuding with his record company, charged Saturday that the recording industry was a racist conspiracy that turns profits at the expense of performers -- particularly minority artists. "The recording companies really, really do conspire against the artists -- they steal, they cheat, they do everything they can," Jackson said in a rare public appearance. "[Especially] against the black artists."

Jackson, 43, who began his recording career as a child, spoke at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network in New York's Harlem neighborhood. Sharpton and attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. recently formed a coalition to investigate whether artists are being financially exploited by record labels.

Jackson, who records for Sony Music Entertainment's Epic label, also singled out company chairman Tommy Mottola, saying he was "mean, he's a racist, and he's very, very, very devilish." Jackson also accused Mottola of using "the n-word" when speaking about an unidentified black Sony artist.

Sony Music issued a statement calling Jackson's comments "ludicrous, spiteful, and hurtful. It seems particularly bizarre that he has chosen to launch an unwarranted and ugly attack on an executive who has championed his career... for many, many years."

Jackson's last album, "Invincible," has had disappointing sales despite an estimated $25 million in promotion. The singer's fans say Sony has not done enough to launch the album. Others in the industry say sagging sales are indicative of Jackson's declining appeal.

Jackson mentioned several black artists as victims of the industry, including James Brown, Mariah Carey, and Sammy Davis Jr. Jackson alleged that Davis died penniless, although Davis' attorney said in 1990 that the "Rat Pack" member left an estate worth more than $6 million when he died. "If you fight for me, you're fighting for all black people, dead and alive," Jackson said, adding: "We have to put a stop to this incredible injustice."

Outside Sony's Manhattan headquarters, about 150 fans gathered later Saturday, hoisting signs reading "Please Sony, stop killing the music," "Terminate Tommy Mottola," and "Invincible Is Unbreakable." Jackson arrived at the building on a double-decker city tour bus that twice circled the block. He stood in the open top deck and, raising his fists, joined the crowd in chanting "Down With Tommy Mottola!"

Jackson held up a poster with three boxes marked "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" -- with an image of himself in the "The Good" box and Mottola's face with devilish horns in "The Bad" box, while Mottola's real image adorned "The Ugly" box.


AP LogoCopyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.