October 24, 2006 05:10 PM

In an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that taped Tuesday and will air Wednesday, Madonna defended her efforts to adopt 1-year-old Malawian boy David Banda – and said the boy’s father has been manipulated into saying he didn’t intend to give up his son, audience members at the taping tell PEOPLE.

Speaking to Winfrey via satellite from a television studio in London, Madonna was poised throughout the interview, though at times she appeared emotional, audience members say. “She’s frustrated with the media because she believes it’s the pressure of the media that’s prompting the father to change his story,” says Brook Carter, 24, from Miami.

Although Yohane Banda, 32, told PEOPLE he had “no problem” with the adoption, he later said, “Nobody told me by ‘adoption’ it means David will no longer be my son but hers.” However, on Tuesday he told Time he does not plan to contest the adoption, saying that doing so would be “killing (David’s) future” and that he is “just grateful to (Madonna) for helping my child.”

The singer talked about the great lengths she went to in order to follow Malawi’s proper adoption procedures and said she got no special treatment, according to audience members. “She said (of Yohane Banda), ‘He looked at me straight in the eye and said I’m thankful for giving my son a future and a life because if he stayed with me I would have buried him,’ ” Carter says.

“Her biggest concern is that (the controversy) is going to stop other people from trying to adopt” from the region, says Susie Lazega, 38, of Atlanta. “That’s her biggest worry.”

On a happier note, Madonna showed photos of herself with her arms wrapped around daughter Lourdes, 10, son Rocco, 6, and David. Another photo showed the singer’s husband Guy Ritchie lifting a beaming David up in the air.

“They look like a happy, loving family. You see her two other children have embraced David,” says Robin Ayoob, 54, of Philadelphia.

Madonna said she first saw baby David in a video clip of a documentary she’s funding about the region, audience members say. In the video, he was being held by an 8-year-old girl with HIV.

“She said she looked in his eyes and had an immediate connection to him,” says Jody Goldstein, 40, of Atlanta. Adds Laura Rader, 38, of St. Louis, “She really wanted to help this little boy (who) had no chance at surviving.”

According to audience members, Madonna said that when she met David, he was suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia – from which he is still recovering; she also said no family members had visited David in a year. Still, Yohane Banda told PEOPLE, “When he was at the orphanage I visited him on my bicycle as long as I had the time, just to see him, play with him.”

Banda also told PEOPLE that Madonna had told him “every three to four years she will be bringing him to me. We have established family ties – mine and hers.” Backing up his claim, Madonna said Banda could see David whenever he wants, and that she plans to visit Malawi once or twice a year with David and wants David to become a spokesman for the country, audience members say.

On the whole, the audience was left feeling sympathetic toward Madonna. Jessica Busch, 25, of Chicago, says she was skeptical when she first heard about the controversy surrounding the singer’s adoption efforts, but “after seeing the interview, I genuinely think she loves the little boy. On the larger scale, this will help the village. On the smaller scale, this will help the boy.”

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