Obama Calls Michael Jackson Great – and Tragic

Obama Calls Michael Jackson Great – and Tragic
Michael Jackson and President Obama
Carlo Allegri/Getty; Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News/Landov

07/02/2009 AT 01:55 PM EDT

A week after Michael Jackson's sudden and shocking death, President Obama has finally offered his thoughts, saying the pop icon will "go down in history as one of our greatest entertainers."

"I grew up on his music," said Obama, who, at 47, is three years younger than Jackson. "I still have all his stuff on my iPod."

But the president added in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press that he also felt that Jackson lived a "tragic and in many ways sad personal life."

Controversy

It stirred controversy in the news media – especially at predominantly African-American outlets – when Obama did not release a formal public statement upon Jackson's death last week, something typically done by the White House when a prominent public figure dies.

Instead, Obama quietly sent a private letter of condolence to the Jackson family, the contents of which neither side has disclosed.

Obama waved away any controversy over his weeklong silence, telling AP White House correspondent Jennifer Loven: "Look, you're the first person who's actually asked me about it."

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