Michael Jackson's new spiritual advisor has hit back at a Vanity Fair article, which alleges the pop superstar needed rehab help to kick a secret drug addiction.

DR FIRPO CARR (corr) staged a press conference on Friday (30JAN04) outside the Jackson family compound in Encino, California, to address allegations made by Jackson's former business partner MYUNG-HO LEE.

Lee told VANITY FAIR that his former friend was addicted to drugs morphine and Demerol, and that he convinced him to spend time in rehab in Seoul, South Korea, in 1999.

Carr confirms Jackson did need help to kick his addiction to painkillers, but insists Lee has embellished the truth.

He says, "We all know that there was the PEPSI incident when his (Jackson's) hair caught on fire, and he took painkillers for that. No problem.

"Like so many other people, there was a challenge getting off those painkillers.

"We have people like BETTY FORD, ELVIS and a host of others who have done the same thing. The problem is not having been addicted to drugs; the problem is getting off of drugs."

Carr adds, "We find it curious that these comments have been made at a time when Michael's legal team cannot, because of a gag order, respond to this irresponsible, yellow journalism."

In a statement from Vanity Fair editors, they are standing by journalist MAUREEN ORTH's Michael Jackson story, insisting "the article underwent rigorous fact-checking and legal vetting."

01/02/2004 10:18