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July 7th, 2009
10:32 PM ET

The secret children: Secret no more

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/07/07/michael.jackson.wrap/art.daughter.aeglive.jpg caption="Paris Katherine Jackson, 11, said goodbye to her father at the close of the memorial service."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Judging from the Twitterfall, a lot of fans were reduced to weeping puddles by the words of Paris Jackson. As that young girl stood at the microphone and tried to speak of her love for her father, she was a stark reminder of the simple fact that in the end the King of Pop was also a human being. I watched as the family swept her away from the microphone and hugged her, and heard the audience applaud with praise and sympathy for her courage in a terrible time.

But sadly, there is a legacy of that moment I can not ignore: For the first time, I know exactly what she looks like. I have heard her voice. And millions more…maybe hundreds of millions…did too.

Jackson was certainly not a typical father, and he did some things that defied defense: that horrific baby dangling episode, for example. In addition, there are all those troubling questions about his private conduct that will forever circle his biography like vultures.

But for as long as he was alive he did a pretty good job keeping his children’s faces hidden from the public at large. The masks seemed strange to the point of disconcerting, to be sure, but the alternative could have been worse. So there were the odd snapshots that showed up now and then, but not many, and almost never in the mainstream media.

And now? He has not even been put to rest, and already the hidden children have been paraded before the world. I have no idea whose idea that was, or if it was simply an oversight. I have no idea if Michael Jackson would have objected, although his behavior only a few weeks ago suggests he would have.

What I do know is this: Any hope of them going out for an ice cream cone, or a bike ride, or a visit to an amusement park was complicated before today; but now it is virtually impossible. They will now be met at every corner by fans with cellphone cameras, paparazzi, and curious gazes. In our celebrity crazed culture, the lives of those children just grew immensely more complex and problematic.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Jackson • Tom Foreman
soundoff (389 Responses)
  1. Anthony Ching

    Paris Jackson, please accept my humble condolences on your father's passing. I hope you will continue to live your life as your father would have approved. Stay close to your brothers and all of your relatives who care about you. Your father was an amazing man and he will never be forgotten. Never.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  2. Melanie

    Actually, last year Michael started taking Prince and Paris out without masks, but he continued to hide Blanket in various oversized hats and masks. Even while the family was onstage, they really didn't show Blanket. Rebbie was pushing him behind Janet.

    I don't think they are parading them around. Prince is 12 going on 13 and Paris is 11. They are at an age where Michael probably thought they could handle his lifestyle.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  3. Sahari

    ENOUGH! Anderson, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, give it up already! The guy sang, danced, and gardened his stardom into his 50's == kudos but everyone is acting like he was the second coming! This is an indictment of every boat humanity has ever missed. We are shallow, we are hypocritical, we are fearful, we are self-aggrandizing, we are idol -worshippers. God save us all, because we'll never get around to doing it ourselves!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  4. Alana

    Either way, I am glad that Paris' words have improved her father's reputation and made him more real to those people who could not otherwise see his humanity.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  5. Katrina in NC

    Betty, biology doesn't matter – he raised them, loved them and provided for them. DNA doesn't make a parent. So to answer your question, YES, he is their father in every way that counts.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Boo

    I heard her speak from the radio and the voices of her family telling her to speak up were audible. It made me cringe.

    It is very hard to identify with that kind of behavior towards children. I feel sympathy for them, for her, even more now that I understand what kind of priorities are observed by those who will be providing her comfort.

    Maybe it is wrong to project my own values about children on the family. The behavior is simply foreign to me. It is very difficult to see the best interest of the child being served, but what do I know? It may have helped her to grieve or find closure or maybe the keepsake video will provide her comfort in later years.

    She was certainly well spoken for a child in that kind of pain.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Zenawit Birhany

    Any true fan of MJ should in honor of the man we all immensely loved, help to enable his kids to have the most normal life they can possibly have by condemning any media that seek to further pursuit them. It is my hope that the public and the press will act above their curiosity and greed and respect the right to privacy of Michael Jackson kids. You've made Michael's life a living hell... NOW LEAVE THOSE KIDS THE HELL ALONE!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  8. Richard Hofley

    The passing of Michael Jackson never hit me as hard as it did when I saw th pictures of his poor children today. My heart goes out to them, not for the loss of seclusion from the press, but for the loss of their father...It is quite obvious that they loved Michael as a real man and father, perhaps something we all never realized.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  9. Presley

    This broke me. I was fine up until the end.
    I wouldn't go as far to say they were paraded, his children attended their Father's Memorial service, along with 1 billion people around the world.
    She wanted to say something, they wanted to be there, at least the older kids.

    Whatever sanity is left after all this, I hope that is the first thing the kids inherit. But only time will tell. And if all doesn't go peachy, who will we blame?

    XXO ♥

    July 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  10. dina212

    What I do know is this: Any hope of them going out for an ice cream cone, or a bike ride, or a visit to an amusement park was complicated before today; but now it is virtually impossible. They will now be met at every corner by fans with cellphone cameras, paparazzi, and curious gazes. In our celebrity crazed culture, the lives of those children just grew immensely more complex and problematic.

    If speaking about her father at his funeral gives this child more paparazzi attention, then this country's logic has failed to the point of defection. I defy the paparazzi to start bothering this family. I defy some random person to take pictures of children they don't even know. Is this country that sick? I pray to God, no.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  11. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Gee, anyone feel sorry for the children he molested? I just saw a clip of the 'tribute' where MJ was called a hero. For WHAT? Using drugs, abusing children, squandering a fortune? The firefighters and police who died on 9/11 were heroes, but Congress never gave them a moment of silence. This is just sick.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  12. Charmia

    Does it matter if he was their biological father?? He loved and raised those children and more importantly, they loved him back. That is the measure of a true father and a phenomenal man. Thank you for speaking Paris K. You introduced us to a man few believed existed: Michael the Nurturer and Michael the Father.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  13. Wanza

    I love the memories that Marlon shared. No! non-fans wouldn't know that there are 10 Jacksons children and Marlon is a twin. Michael & LaToya wrote about this decades ago.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  14. Tom

    I am curious as to why Dianna Ross was not at the MJ Memorial?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  15. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    And what would the alternative be...have the kids sit there wearing masks or veils over their faces? Since these kids were home schooled, and only had their father as their playmate, I would think MJ's kids will have a much tougher time interacting with regular kids than avoiding photographers.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  16. Christina

    Several times during the service I was in tears but when that beautiful little girl spoke I lost it completely. My heart goes out to her and her brothers and they will always be in my prayers. I hope all of them have the peace they need to live their lives and that the paparazzi will give them a break but I doubt it. All three of MJ's children are beautiful and you could tell he loved them very much. RIP Michael-I will miss you always.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  17. Vee

    Farwell Michael Jackson; God Bless your family! The Memorial was terrific; glad this focused on his humanitarian efforts, fatherhood & friendships. I was tired of negative press reports & sensationalism! Let the dead rest in peace; we don't need to know all of the ugly details of a person's life. Who among us is without sin, let him cast the first stone. We want to remember his music and the love he shared with the world! We are just realizing what we have lost!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  18. Jeni

    I agree with Tom Foreman (for the 2nd time today, see 1st example: Letter to Pres. Obama).

    Michael isn't even buried and already his family is parading them out, when Michael has tried so hard to keep them out of the spotlight. This is just the begining. If his mother gets custody, Joe Jackson (as her husband) will have access to those poor kids. You can be sure that he will thrust them into the spotlight just as he did to their father.

    It's really a shame.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  19. Anne

    I am glad that the children are free.MJ love.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  20. Alana

    I watched this part of the memorial several times now. The first time, when I watched it live, I was of course sobbing, heartbroken at Paris' words. However, watching it over again, it is beginning to look like more and more of a publicity stunt...Janet telling her to speak up, etc...I want to think the best of Michael and his family, but why would they expose his child to the media when that is something he worked so hard NOT to do for the past 12 years?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  21. Sammy Jay

    I have been travelling all day with the ipod going as I was in a very isolated community in the north. I have missed everything MJ. Can you tell me if I'm able to catch it or read what has been said today on the regards to what his daughter said?

    I hope for the sake of the children "MEDIA" will leave these children alone and let them discover who they want to be now, but also for the children, I hope the Jackson family doesn't try to change their lives completely over night. Loosing a parent is a struggle enuf, I can't imagine what his three children are going thru!

    rip

    July 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  22. Judy

    Maybe Paris needed to speak for her own healing and show the human side. Hopefully the media won't hound the kids and Debbie R. will let the kids stay with the family they know and love. If they are lucky those around won't use them for the money.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  23. Wanza

    Michael protected HIS children to the best of his ability. The media for years thought it strange for them to wear masks but their father, the price of fame & fortune was too great for his children to pay for their father's career choices. Today, we see why Michael dressed them up. But all over now cause they will hunted and stalked for the rest of their lives. What a price to pay for such young children!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    My heart aches for every child around the globe who loses a parent.
    I deeply know this heartache! Protect, honor and continue to cherish these children!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  25. Tamela

    I cried though the whole ceremony as I have been doing since Michael passed. However, when Paris spoke, my heart and soul broke into a billion pieces. Bless her heart...

    July 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  26. Don

    I'm just saddened by the fact that Michael felt he had to look white to get the true honor and respect in America, and the world, that he should have deserved no matter what he looked like. He even went so far as to adopt white children and pretend to have fathered them just to be accepted in a white dominated and controlled world.

    Even though Michael went to extreme measures to be truly accepted, the real problem was not with Michael...it was with the America and the world he found himself in.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  27. angie chittom

    I disagree with Tom Foreman in his assessment regarding the kids being hounded more because we are aware of their appearance. The more they are shown and not shielded by veil from the public's eye the less likely the press will clamor for that all exclusive photo. Protect them yes; but on occasion let them be shown so their is less curiosity. Do you think they went for ice cream prior to today? God bless all three children for the loss of their father.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  28. Juanita, Elko NV

    This has been a very sad day for the entire word! Our hearts are broken and yet still filled with love!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  29. Dan

    michael Jackson's only lil girl will now prolly not able to do what normal 11yr olds do.but I do hope the fans of Michael leave her alone or she won't be a happy girl

    July 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  30. Jools

    Sad that unwittingly Michaels kids were 'outed'. Every chance for having a 'normal' life has now been made impossible. This is truly turning into a classic Greek Tragedy.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  31. Chrissy

    I know everything happens for a reason, but I have yet to figure out the reason for MJ's demise, but it is said that you cross over when you have accomplished what you needed to here on earth in this life. Could it be that MJ did that?

    July 7, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  32. Betty Williams

    Some of us question if he is actually the biological father of the children. If not, would he have had to adopt them legally? H
    e certainly loved them, but is he the father??

    July 7, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  33. Amber

    In a lost interview with the children's mother(Rowe)(E! Hollywood) She stated that disguising the children's faces with masks was her doing and her request....not Michael's...Paris K. Jackson u are a brave brave lil girl and we love ur daddy too!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  34. ekta

    Speechless

    July 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  35. Donna Bengtson

    Dad or daddy is still dad weather you are from fame or normal life. One's heart just broke for her heartache of missing her daddy

    July 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  36. Swazale

    Anderson, if you review the tape you will see that Paris asked her Aunt Janet to say something. Masked or unmasked she spoke from the heart which am told will help with the mourning process. Her words connected with people worldwide and think her dad's memorial service was as it should be in perfect order. The Jackson family will do a great job in raising Paris and her brothers. I hope the Media will play its part in being respectful and 'back off' allowing the kids to live their life in peace.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  37. lovelykoren

    You are a very brave lil girl. I know how it is to lose a daddy. He will always be in your heart. you and your brothers will all ways be in my prayers.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  38. Susan, Sequim WA

    Looks like Michael parents are going to screw up the grandkids just as they did the kid! Why on earth would they trot that poor child out at this circus they are calling a "service" is beyond comprehension! Shame on them!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  39. Lee

    Paris did what no PR firm has been able to do for Michael Jackson. She catapulted him from tarnished to gleaming white. The moment Paris Jackson spoke and said "daddy" was the moment I saw him as someone I might really know, other than an odd eccentric talent. I only wish Michael had introduced us to his children earlier.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  40. Libby

    How I've seen it, it seemed like Paris' choice to step up to the mic and thank her father's fans for being there and letting the world know that she loved her father very much. The media shouldn't ridicule the family for showing the children. If anything, I think seeing the fans at his memorial will help them cope with the awful situation they're in right now by seeing the support coming from Michael's fan base. RIP Michael.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  41. Marie

    God bless Paris Michael Katherine and her brothers. My heart goes out to the family.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  42. tishiepooh

    I'm happy his daughter spoke. His son was set to perform with him on his tour so I think he felt they were ready to be seen to some point. He will be missed and forever thought of.

    July 7, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  43. kimnslfdmi

    This is for the Rep. King of New York...... YOU PUNK ......You called Michael Jackson a pervert and stated that you would not have your children in the same room with him....What label can we give you CHILD ABUSER... You have single handed verbally abused his 3 children and never met them.....I am sure he would want his children in the same room with you.....People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones...YOU PUNK..

    July 7, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  44. Chrissy

    I truly wish God didn't take MJ for the sake of the children..there lives are forever changed and I don't think for the better either...I'll pray for MJ's children...God bless all 3 of you..xoxo

    July 7, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  45. Gary Chandler in Canada

    on ANY event, Americans will rewrite history!
    How could MJ have invented rock and roll fund raising, when SIR Bob Geldof and Midge Uredid Band Aid first???

    July 7, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  46. Deb

    This is the real world folks! A daughter and her brothers have lost thier father; and what a great father he was! Remember, at the end of the day; his children will reap what we he has instilled in them; honest, integrity; and, a lovigness toward the universe. Kudos to MJ!!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  47. Ruthie

    Anderson, I just wanted to tell you that although the identity of the children has been hidden there whole life, I do have a copy of US weekly and In Touch that do have recent pics of them in there. when they panned over to the kids at the memorial today I knew who they were. their faces were familiar to me from the recent magazine article. so they would never be able to go out in public before today or after today. i get that you are saying esspecially now they will be recognized but they would've been anyways. those papparazzi know their subjects!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  48. Laurie

    He united us, all colors faiths all loves... children ,music ...

    July 7, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  49. Laurie

    ...When his heart broke,mine did also..

    July 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  50. SpicaSeven

    Thank you Paris K. Jackson for speaking out, We Love You!

    July 7, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
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