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Was James Durbin’s “Pepsi Moment” In Bad Taste?

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

When "American Idol" rocker James Durbin mentioned Pepsi--the arch nemesis of longtime "Idol" advertiser Coca-Cola, and sponsor of rival program "The X Factor"--on "Idol's" live broadcast Wednesday night, he was probably most concerned that he'd inadvertently started a cola war (as sponsor-wary host Ryan Seacrest swooped in quickly to plug "Idol's" preferred soda of choice). But it turns out James may have offended more than just advertising executives or diehard Coke-drinkers. 

During his quite literally blazing cover of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" Wednesday, an onstage piano was lit on fire, and when Ryan questioned James about the potentially dangerous pyro, James quipped: "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'!"

James was, of course, referring to an infamous 1984 incident, during which the late Michael Jackson's hair was set on fire by faulty pyrotechnics on the set of a Pepsi commerical. It was obviously James's attempt, failed or otherwise, at a joke--and it was a little amusing to see Ryan squirm like that. But according to TMZ, the Jackson family didn't find the remark very funny, and now James is under fire, so to speak.

"We were shocked to see this. It's nothing to make light of and everybody should be focusing on who was responsible for Michael's death," a Jackson family rep told TMZ. The source added that Michael's father, Joe Jackson, was particularly peeved that no one at Fox deemed it necessary to edit James's comment out of "Idol's" tape-delayed broadcasts in later time zones.

The young singer took to his Twitter page today to address the controversy, insisting that he never meant to make fun of the late King Of Pop (any more than he likely meant to give Pepsi free advertising). "For anyone talkin..I said pepsi NOT MJ! I have no disrespect for Michael. I grew up singing his art," James tweeted. "I guess youll take it how you want it...Talkin about MJs passing is too soon. Making a reference to an incident 25 years ago..not too soon. The stab was at pepsi people."

Incidentally, James's tweets about his faux pas have since been removed, possibly because the "Idol" powers-that-be didn't want one of their star contestants mentioning the dreaded P-word any more or drawing attention to an incident that may hurt his chances in the competition.

So what do you think? Was James's "Pepsi moment" comment out of line, or just an innocent slip-up?

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