(CNN) - President Obama thinks Michael Jackson was a "spectacular performer" but also a man with aspects of his life that were "sad and tragic," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.
"I talked to him about it this morning," Gibbs said in the White House's first reaction to Jackson's death. "Look, he said to me that obviously Michael Jackson was a spectacular performer, a music icon. I think everybody remembers hearing his songs, watching the moon walk on television during Motown's 25th anniversary."
"But the president also said, look, he had aspects of his life were sad and tragic," Gibbs added. "His condolences went out to the Jackson family and to fans who mourn his loss."
Gibbs was quickly pressed over why the White House did not issue a formal statement on Jackson's death.
"Because I just said it," he said.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) – It was one of the most fascinating White House photo ops since President Richard Nixon met Elvis.
At a White House ceremony on May 14, 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Michael Jackson with the Presidential Public Safety Communication Award for allowing the song "Beat It" to be used in a public service campaign against teen drinking and driving.
Reagan's comments that day were peppered with Michael Jackson song references:
"Well, isn't this a thriller? . . . I know why you're here, and with good reason – to see one of the most talented, most popular, and most exciting superstars in the music world today – Michael Jackson. And Michael, welcome to the White House," said Reagan.
"His heart couldn't get any bigger, and yesterday, it arrested," said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. "I come to the floor today on behalf of a generation to thank God for letting all of us live in his generation and in his era."