April Fool's Day Upset: Britney Spears Beats Michael Jackson to Take No. 1 Spot In Eighth Annual "Most Foolish American" Survey

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President Bush, Paris Hilton, O.J. Simpson follow close behind. Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson out of the money for 2007. And Katie who?

Pop entertainer Michael Jackson, who has been voted "Most Foolish American" four years running in an annual survey of 1,000 of his fellow Americans, lost his crown this year to fellow pop star Britney Spears, according to results released in advance of the April Fool's Day holiday for the Eighth Annual Most Foolish American Survey sponsored each year by well-known New York publicist Jeff Barge.

According to the new survey, 76% of Americans said Spears -- who recently went bald after a dispute with her mom that had her entering rehab and who has gone underwear-free on at least one recent nightclub outing -- had "done something foolish in the past year." "Going commando, mutilating your own head, baby-bobbling -- they've all been done before on an individual basis," notes Barge. "But combining them, that's like a triple-axel of foolery."

The explanation? "She's finally waking up to who and what she really is," says Barge. "She's finally seeing her prison and she's not liking it. Personally, I think all this going down with her is making her a far more interesting person. Who wouldn't flip out in the face of constant media pressure?"

In second place in the Eighth Annual Most Foolish American Survey was perennial contender Paris Hilton, with 67% percent of Americans saying she had "done something foolish" in the past year. Among her most recent exploits, Paris has had her secret diaries exposed as the result of failing to pay fees for her storage locker, has been arrested for drunk driving -- and has even been engaged to another person named Paris. "She's really become the Lucille Ball for a new generation," notes Barge.

The survey is conducted each year by Mr. Barge with the assistance of Opinion Research Corp. of Princeton, N.J., and has a margin of error of 3%. The survey has been conducted on an annual basis since the year 1999, and has received coverage in leading American newspapers including the Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, New York Post, Agence France Presse, Knight Ridder Wire Service, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Miami Herald, the Houston Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal.

In third place this year was pop singer Michael Jackson, with only 64% of Americans believing he had "done something foolish" in the past year. For the past four years running, Jackson had held the No. 1 spot in this survey, with Paris Hilton as his frequent second-in-command. "The survey data clearly show that some type of 'organized dancing' ought to take place between Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton," as leading American humorist Amy Sedaris, author of the New York Times-best selling cookbook "I LIke You," might say. "And that this would be a television smash."

American President George W. Bush took the fourth position; Bush is under hostile fire for a war in Iraq that is increasingly viewed as a major disaster, with 63% of Americans saying he had done something foolish in the past year.

Rounding out the Top 5 was O.J. Simpson, who authored a book this past year describing in detail how he might have killed his wife, Nicole, several years ago, if he was indeed her killer, which he says in the book that he isn't. A television special based on that premise was scheduled to run on the Fox Network this past fall, but was cancelled at the last moment because of "taste issues."

Out of the Top Five, with a foolishness rating of only 56%, was actor Mel Gibson, who made headlines this past year by uttering anti-Semitic slurs to a California policeman who had just arrested him for drunk driving; Dick Cheney (56%), still smarting over an incident a year ago in which he shot a friend in the face on a hunting trip; road-tripping Astronaut Lisa Nowak (53%), involved in alleged death threats against a romantic rival to the affections of a fellow astronaut; former Congressman Mark Foley (51%) who resigned as the result of improper e-mails and IMs he made to male Congressional pages; and Seinfeld comedian Michael Richards (51%) who was reported to have made racial slurs that offended Black audience members at a Los Angeles comedy club.

The total list this year is as follows:

1. Singer Britney Spears             76%
2. Socialite Paris Hilton             67%
3. Singer Michael Jackson         64%                            
4. President George Bush         63%
5. O.J. Simpson            60%
6. Vice President Dick Cheney             56%
7. Actor Mel Gibson                        56%
8. Astronaut Lisa Nowak                    53%
9. Former Congressman Mark Foley                             51%                    
10. Seinfeld comedian Michael Richards     51%
11. Actor Tom Cruise                             50%
12. Actress Lindsay Lohan                        44%
13. Kevin Federline                             41%
14. Scooter Libby                                36%
15. Peter Cook                     32%
16. Actress Katie Holmes                         23%

"To quote Mark Twain, 'The First of April is the day we remember what we are like the other 364 days of the year,' says Mr. Barge. The telephone poll is the eighth annual April Fools poll conducted by Mr. Barge, a well-known New York-based public relations consultant who has in the past represented clients such as E- the People.com, Interactive Meeting Solutions, the Lama Surya Das, Chicago's Round Table Group, Pilot Pen, and numerous best-selling authors.

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