James Durbin Upsets Jackson Family with Pepsi Comment

Courtesy: Fox

A seemingly harmless and unscripted exchange between American Idol contestant James Durbin and host Ryan Seacrest has touched off a controversy involving Michael Jackson’s family. 

According to TMZ, the Jackson family, including Michael’s father Joe, is upset at Durbin’s off-the-cuff remark on Wednesday evening when he stated, “I have a lot of hairspray in my hair to keep it from jumping around — so much so, the one thing I was worried about was having a ‘Pepsi moment.’” 

Durbin made the comment shortly after his performance, which involved a pyrotechnic effect that included a piano being set ablaze behind him. Durbin’s remark was an apparent reference to Michael Jackson’s infamous incident in 1984 when his hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.

There are several issues I have with Jackson’s team jumping all over Durbin and Fox for the comment.

For starters, James was merely referencing a well-known incident that is a part of pop culture history and showed no disrespect to Michael Jackson or his family whatsoever. Also, it appears as if the Jackson reps dialed up TMZ to protest the remarks, clearly aware that doing so would make headlines and draw attention back to the ongoing Michael Jackson saga. If true, then that is really an unfortunate thing to have done.

Additionally, it can be assumed that the Jackson team is unaware of James Durbin’s Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism. A common characteristic of those with Asperger’s is the lack of a "filter," meaning things are often said and done without the full realization of their consequences — another reason to back off and give James a break.

While we certainly feel for the Jackson family and the pain they have endured as a result of their loss, picking on a 22-year-old with Asperger’s for an unscripted comment is clearly the wrong place to be venting their grief and anger.

James has overcome the death of a father, Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s, and is currently participating in a grueling competition that he has worked so hard to be involved in. The last thing he needs is the unnecessary guilt and burden of inadvertently offending a grieving family.

19 Responses to James Durbin Upsets Jackson Family with Pepsi Comment

  1. terry says:

    Poor James. Not.

  2. Great post again Gary! The Jackson family upset about an off the cuff comment? For goodness sake, may I suggest that a member of the Jackson family take a walk in James’ shoes, or any other person who lives with Asperger’s syndrome. It won’t take them long to realize that those with Autism have to live with much nastier comments than that every single day of their lives. I thought they were a religious family? May I suggest they perhaps practice being a lot more compassionate and a lot less judgmental

  3. Sshannon says:

    Get real people.. He oviosly did’nt mean it in a bad way… JUST A JOKE! HE WAS KIDDING! REMEMBER WHAT ”playing around” means?? People r soo stupid some times leave james alone! for pete sake!
    (ROLLS EYES)……….

  4. Sshannon says:

    Rock on james durbin (jd) u will win!

  5. Gail Feldman says:

    I am in total agreement Gary Porter’s post. After an energetic performance, James Durbin was asked what had worried him the most about his technically difficult performance. He referred to the fear of the fire element and the large amount of hairspray he had used by saying something about a ” Pepsi moment”. Ryan Seacrest joked that the show was sponsored by Coke and James replied ,Oh, Pepsi in a bad way. Coke is good.”Nothing was said in any comedic or defaming way about Michael Jackson . From all I know about James, he is a kind and compassionate guy who has suffered enough in his own life to certainly have empathy for others. Here is a young man afflicted with a disorder that doesn’t always allow speech to happen as easily and clearly as it does for others. He is asked to respond to a question after a high energy song and dance number and I feel responds appropriately with no malice or intentional hurt to anyone but simply a reference to a disastrous event that those who follow music recognize involved fire and hair some twenty years ago.In rush the Jacksons.
    For what reason? Do they really need the publicity so badly that they would take what they can get on the back of this kid who has worked so hard to get his moment? I doubt that Michael would have condoned their actions. Shame on them!
    I have two grandsons , one with Aspergers and one with Autism.We are terribly proud of James . We understand what he has accomplished. May this ridiculous accusation with no substance nor merit die a swift death.

  6. Karen Howard says:

    oh please – - are you kidding me? Aspergers aside, James was off-the-cuff witty ! and has nothing to apologize for or feel guilty about. Get a life, Jacksons and anyone who felt offended by the remark. It showed quick wit and humor and is quite fitting for a “pop figure” who would be a terrific next American Idol (if he ends up winning).

  7. Sue says:

    Leave James alone as he is overcoming his problems and certainly no harm or disrepect to the Jackson Family. Micheal’s name was never mentioned. The Jackson Family should stop,pray and be thankful instead of always thinking about their pockets. James you go and become American Idol. ;)

  8. Byron says:

    getting burned is nothing to joke about, the comment was insensitive.
    Now knowing that James has aspergers I understand he may not even know how his comments hurt.

  9. Motor City DIVA says:

    Wow, much ado about NADA!! Looks to me (even in death) Michael can’t escape being pimped for publicity by his some of his relatives….pathetic! I’m a Michael Jackson fan and found it innocently hilarious.

    Grow a thicker skin, JACKSONS and stop using Mike to get media time!

  10. Julie Noel says:

    Sorry. The Jacksons have a right to express their feelings. Durbin doesn’t get a free ride – Michael (nor the rest of the Jacksons) ever did.

  11. Motor City DIVA says:

    @ Julie Noel: No one said the Jacksons couldn’t “express their feelings”, but what they need to do is choose their battles wisely. Their knee jerk reaction to James’ comment was overkill to the nth degree. Michael’s own siblings, Jermaine and LaToya said much worse about him via music and books. Where was the self righteous indignation then?

  12. carla says:

    I think James should sue the despicable Jackson family, mainly Papa Joe, for perhaps hurting his chance to win and for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
    I found out that it is possible to vote more than 1 time and I think we should get as many people as we can to vote for him many times even if they don’t know who he is. We need to support a guy that,despite Aspergers and Tourettes followed his dream. He’s not good for a person with disabilities. He is just good.

  13. Zoe says:

    I disagree that the Jacksons “picked” on this guy. Just because you read a story about their response on TMZ doesn’t mean that’s the way it got out. Also, the comment pissed off people at American Idol as Coca Cola is their sponsor and as such, even mentioning Pepsi was a seriously bad move, which is why Ryan Seacrest quickly jumped in to try to minimize the damage. That said, I also think that not holding people accountable for their words or actions because they have a disorder is lame. Sorry, but everyone has something they struggle with and battle in life and we all have to take responsibility regardless of our personal problems. I dated a guy with Aspergers and can tell you that yes, it isn’t uncommon for Aspies to just say whatever comes out, but social skills training is a necessity and taking responsibility for hurtful comments is necessary, which we did to protect his image. I understand why the Jacksons were upset, on his Twitter feed, James countered their argument that it was “too soon” to make that comment by quipping that it was 25 years ago, when they were actually referring to his death and ongoing trial and that comment was pretty snarky and unnecessary and seemed to cancel out any sincerity in attempting to apologize. I’m not villifying this kid, I just think the whole ‘poor him’ routine is equally sad. You can’t put someone on a network in front of millions of people and not expect people to have an opinion – as an ‘idol’, it takes more than just a voice to build a career and image is a big part of that, he’s better left keeping his mouth closed if he expects to win people over. Given that he is on a sponsored show, he is a representative of sorts for Coca Cola and as such, I’m sure they are having them all sign contracts from this point forward as that can create a lot of legal problems and they don’t want to risk their main sponsor falling out. Bottom line is, this isn’t your stage to voice your corny jokes or to say whatever you want, it is a show where the contestants are expected to deliver what is expected, not free style – there’s too much money at stake in any network program for this kind of risk. I hope he’s learned from this. Nevermind the Jacksons, I’m sure the people at AI and Coca Cola have given him an earful.

  14. Patti says:

    So Zoe, let me get this right. You jump all over James Durbin, and do so on an autism support site? Good god – your name has troll written all over it. I doubt you could give a rat’s ass about the Jackson’s – you are trolling for either another contestant or a former contestant. Get a life.

  15. Christine says:

    When I heard that comment from James, I didn’t even think about the “Michael Jackson Incident”. I feel that James has overcome so much in his life, and he is making something of himself up on that stage. I happen to have a son with Autism, and I know quite a few people with Aspergars Syndrome. It takes guts for a “typical” person to get up the courage to sing in front of thousands of people, let alone a “special needs” person. I think James is one of the most talented persons on that show. I love his Rock and Roll persona. In my opinion, he could go all the way, and take it all. He is truly inspirational. Leave James alone.

  16. Nadine says:

    You know it is such a shame that a well known family like the Jacksons with all their own personal good and bad history would jump at something so childish. It is written in music history about Michaels mishap with hair products and fire. Are you really going to jump at each and every comment someone says that may or may not have refrence with Michael. For god sakes people move on and let go. I stand by James comment there was no disrespect intended and you (THE JACKSON FAMILY) owe him an appology for being media hungry and pathetic people.

  17. linda says:

    get over it jacksons! this kids had enough pain , not intended and they should
    “get it” about having a kid who is misunderstood!!!!!

  18. Dtrov says:

    As a father of a teenage boy with Aspergers, I can tell you that this article nails it in describing the behavior and reaction of an “Aspie” in social situations. James response was mild and innocent. These kids seldom mean anything hurtful by their actions but when they do get mad and hurt, they shut down and tune out the world. James has tourettes and my son has juvenile speech which makes it even harder for him to communicate. They have to be taught how to read body language and figures of speech by others and to understand criticism of them to hatred of them. James has had to go through it and mine is as well. I am glad this topic is out in the open whether James Durbin wins or not, he has become an idol for my son and James had a good enough voice to please most any crowd who do not know about his disability. For those who criticize him about growing up and stop whining, look up Aspergers and its symptoms and affects on a young child growing up and you might be a little more compassionate. That is more important for viewers than he winning the competition. Let each singer stand on their own merits, including James and the best voice win.

  19. Carolyn says:

    Go James! I am so proud of you for how much you have accomplished in the face of so much adversity. The Jacksons have bad, selfish, motives and I am sorry that there are people that ridiculous and senseless in the world.

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