Mackenzie Phillips, who gobsmacked the world Wednesday by admitting on Oprah Winfrey's show that she had sex with her father, defends the man, after a fashion.

Phillips, appearing Thursday on "Today" with Meredith Vieira, said John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas "was not a bad man. He was a very sick man," and that the sexual relationship between the two that began when he raped her at age 19 was not an "affair" — contrary to, among other reports, our headline Wednesday.

"He didn't set out to hurt me," she said. "He did the best with what he had. He was a damaged guy."

John Phillips died in 2001. Surviving family members are all over the map about the revelations in Mackenzie's memoir, "High on Arrival."

Michelle Phillips, Mackenzie's first stepmother, was incredulous in an interview with Hollywood Reporter's Showbiz411.com site.

"John was a bad parent and a drug addict," she said. "But (have sex with) his daughter? If she thinks it's true, why isn't she with a good psychiatrist on a couch?"

Chynna Phillips, daughter of John and Michelle, told Us Magazine she believes Mackenzie. The two will appear today on "Oprah," Mackenzie via satellite and Chynna in the studio, says Us.

Bijou and Tamerlane Phillips, John's children with Genevieve Waite, "have shown what NBC terms measured support," according to People.com.


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Mackenzie Phillips said on "Today" that she did not think her father abused her half-sisters.

ANOTHER DAUGHTER WITH A BOOK COMING OUT TALKS ABOUT DAD: Victoria Gotti's tales about father John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family, are as vile in their own way as Mackenzie Phillips' about Papa John, but a lot less surprising.

"I loved the man ... but I loathed the life, his lifestyle," Gotti, 46, tells the CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours Mystery in an episode airing Saturday. " ... I would lie awake nights and cry. 'Is my dad gonna come home? Is he gonna go to jail again? ... Is he going to get hurt? Is he gonna get killed?'"

At the same time, she seems to have goaded her father into one of many slayings to which he was linked: the 1980 disappearance and apparent murder of a neighbor who accidentally ran over and killed her 12-year-old brother, Frank.

"You're supposed to be a tough guy. How can you let somebody kill my brother?" she says she told her father. "And he just looked at me and he said, 'It was an accident.'"

John Gotti, convicted of 13 murders in 1992, died in prison in 2002. Victoria, matriarch on the "Growing Up Gotti" reality show, says she got his approval to write her book, "This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti," which comes out Tuesday.

"He had just one request. He said, 'Don't you ever look to make me out to be an altar boy. Because I wasn't,'" she says.

JUST WHAT WE NEED: Bereft of imagination that doesn't involve pre-existing merchandise, Hollywood has struck a deal for a live-action Barbie movie.

Universal Pictures has acquired the rights for a movie based on the Mattel doll line. The Barbie flick will follow such toy-based hits as the "Transformers" movies and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" — and such toy-based flops as "Bratz: The Movie."

No names that mean anything to people who don't read Variety are attached to the project, and we're nowhere near the stage where a lead actress is under consideration, much less which of Barbie's 10 zillion careers, sisters, cousins or best friends will be portrayed.

CLIMB EV'RY MOUNTAIN: Having proved to critics that she can perform Noel Coward, Jessica Biel is aiming even higher.

The "7th Heaven" and "Easy Virtue" actress, 27, has signed on to climb Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, in January to raise awareness for the need for clean water worldwide.

She will be joined by singer Lupe Fiasco and "Transformers" actress Isabel Lucas on the "Summit on the Summit" expedition, brainchild of Biel's friend, singer Kenna, whose father suffered from waterborne diseases in Ethiopia as a child.

TODAY IN HISTORY
Today is Friday, Sept. 25, the 268th day of 2009. There are 97 days left in the year.
  • 1513: Spanish explorer Vasco Nu ez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and sighted the Pacific Ocean.
  • 1789: The first U.S. Congress adopted 12 amendments to the Constitution and sent them to the states for ratification. (Ten amendments became the Bill of Rights.)
  • 1775: American Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen was captured by the British as he led an attack on Montreal. (The British released Allen in 1778.)
  • 1919: President Woodrow Wilson collapsed after a speech in Pueblo, Colo., during a national speaking tour in support of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • 1957: Nine black students forced to withdraw from Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., because of unruly white crowds were escorted to class by members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.
  • 1978: 144 people were killed when a Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727 and a private plane collided over San Diego.
  • 1979: The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical "Evita," starring Patti LuPone as Eva Per n, opened on Broadway.
  • 1981: Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as the first female justice on the Supreme Court.
    BIRTHDAYS
    TV journalist Barbara Walters (80). folk singer Ian Tyson (76), R&B singer Joe Russell (70), Defense Secretary Robert Gates (66), actor-producer Michael Douglas (65), model Cheryl Tiegs (62), actor Mark Hamill (58), Basketball Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo (58), actor Michael Madsen (51), actress Heather Locklear (48), actress Aida Turturro (47), retired NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen (44), actor Will Smith (41), actress Catherine Zeta-Jones (40), retired NFL player John Lynch (38), Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (34), actress Clea DuVall (32), rapper T.I. (29).
    -- Associated Press