Larry King spent nearly an hour in a live interview Wednesday night with Dr. Arnold Klein, a rare opportunity to quiz Michael Jackson’s dermatologist, who is at the center of questions about Jackson’s early use of prescription painkillers that may have kicked off his drug addiction. But King allowed Dr. Klein—who said at one point that “I want this [interview] to be as truthful as possible”—to dodge some core issues about whether he was Jackson’s initial enabling prescriber. Here are some matters on which King could have asked tougher questions that might have cleared the record.
1. THE Q&A: When King asked Klein how he met Jackson, Klein said, “I met Michael because somebody brought him into the office…a very close friend had told him to come see me.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: Who? I have written in the past day that Liz Taylor’s own simultaneous drug and alcohol battles in the mid- to late 1980s were a bad influence on Jackson, and the two stars and close friends had Klein as their doctor. Was it Taylor who introduced the pop star?
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2. THE Q&A: At one point Dr. Klein said Jackson “was exquisitely sensitive to pain,” and at another time, when discussing surgical procedures done to the pop star’s scalp, Klein said “it was really painful” for Jackson.
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: Doesn’t this mean he was more likely to use prescription pain pills than other patients who did not have such sensitivity or undergo similar cosmetic procedures?
3. THE Q&A: When asked about reports that Jackson’s body was riddled with needle marks, Klein said that when he saw Jackson three days before his death, “I never saw needle marks on his body—I never saw them that I could tell you—I didn’t see a riddling of anything.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: Did you ever see needle marks on his arms? When was the last time you examined his arms?
4. THE Q&A: Klein told King that he had “used sedatives when [Jackson] had surgical procedures,” and “I occasionally gave him Demerol to sedate him. That was about the strongest medicine I ever used.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: How did you prescribe that, by pill, syrup, or injection? What do you mean by “about the strongest medicine”? What other narcotic pain relievers did you ever prescribe for Jackson?
5. THE Q&A: In response to a question about which prescriptions he wrote for Jackson, Klein said only, “If you took all the pills I gave him the last year at once, it wouldn’t do anything to you.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: What about the previous 19 years you knew him? What about the allegations that you prescribed heavier drugs in the early years of your doctor-patient relationship, and did you ever authorize Debbie Rowe to deliver drugs to Jackson and/or to administer injectables to him at his house?
6. THE Q&A: Klein said Jackson had gone to England for rehab and returned clean but with a “huge tolerance level,” meaning that he might “require larger doses than regular.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: When did he go to rehab? Does the higher tolerance mean you prescribed doses that were more than the FDA recommendations?
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7. THE Q&A: King asked Klein about Diprivan, the powerful anesthetic that was evidently found in Jackson’s house by investigators. Klein told King: “It is a wonderful drug when used correctly…this is a drug you cannot repeatedly take, because what happens with narcotics no matter what you do, is you build a tolerance to it.” He admitted he was aware of Jackson’s use of Diprivan while on tour in Germany and had warned him “he was absolutely insane.”
THE MISSING FOLLOW-UP: Why did you say on Good Morning America earlier today, “How am I going to prescribe Diprivan when I don’t understand how to use it?” That is not a denial that you prescribed it. Did you ever write it for Jackson? Any similar anesthetic?
“I never saw needle marks on his body—I never saw them that I could tell you—I didn’t see a riddling of anything.”
“I am not a drug expert, I only am an expert with [cosmetic] injectables,” Klein assured King. For someone who was treating Michael Jackson for a diagnosis of painful lupus with prescription pain pills, that admission was not the most reassuring.
Gerald Posner is the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism ( www.posner.com). Posner lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.