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. Justin

    It became real when Paris spoke. Not the celebrities speaking or the musicians singing. It was when a daughter cried for the loss of her dad, it was heartbreaking.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  2. helen

    MJ played a big part in my life growing up,he always someone I look up to. His music for me in my childhood made me happy and I felt good about myself.Mj was a good person he been through in his life been judge an put him down with acussation.Who give any one the rights to judge when no one is perfect.Its true MJ helped around the world very much, many of his fans and the generation to come will play his music.God has him in his hands now.God please guide his kids an allow them to know true meaning of life that you ve for them. I will always remember MJ.May your soul rest in peace MJ>>>>

    July 7, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  3. Cynthia

    To Parker Manos.... you're right! I've known my "biological" father my entire life and I'm 52. I was at his bedside at his death – however, I could never come up with the endearing word of "daddy" for him, because he had never been a father! Paris called MJ Daddy, because he had proven his love to her as her father, and she loved him. To the other men out there – "can" your kids call you "daddy" and mean it?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  4. Smey

    I can't stop crying. This is an absolutely heartbreaken

    I hope Debbie Rowe had watched this, and if you are going to fight for the kids because of money, please please please respect Michael and leave the kids alone.

    We love you MJ. God bless everyone.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  5. sean

    I couldn't hold my tears when you spoke. I, and billions of people, love you and Michael. He lives within our heart forever.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  6. Bernadette Derry

    It does not matter what any of us thought of Micheal Jackson good or bad.All that matters is that his children love and loved him.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  7. TaRaysha

    Charmia July 7th, 2009 7:12 pm ET

    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.

    –I could not agree more well stated.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  8. Vickie

    Paris personified Michael Jackson. We have seen him as a iconic performer, Paris showed him as a loving father. Speaking your heart is part of the healing process, and I'm glad she had that opportunity. I just wish we could have had a tiny glimpse of Michael's role as a father. It would have disarmed many of his critics who only wanted to focus on the negative.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  9. Vivica

    Yes but the article is right, everybody was so emotional in the memorial that they couldn´t stop to crush the devoted effort MJ did to protect the identity of his children. Years of harsh critics and a successful scape of paparazzi hunting now down to the toilet.

    This shows us how difficult was to him this task and how many determination he had when he wanted something done against common sense. A rain of critics were done but he refused to show his children faces the price worth it to him.

    Parents try to give to us things that they could not have, in MJ case to be anonymous, invisible to media, was a luxury he wanted to give to his children. Could The Memorial be less emotional if the children remains hidden in the crowd? Yes... Maybe could be very strange but a big wish of MJ would be accomplished and his children safe of media attacks...

    July 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  10. Naomi

    * do afford ourselves

    July 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  11. Cynthia

    To Gary in Canada...... never heard of them before! Neither has most of the world! and your point is.....

    July 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Tracey

    so jaded Mike in Syracuse... is it so hard to believe for just a moment that MJ was really a man who loved children and WE as society are what makes it 'dirty'?

    I've never believed those stories and in fact have yet to hear of anyone other than the accuser who believes the stories or believed MJ capable of such things.

    IMHO, we need more Michael Jacksons in the world .. it truly would be a better place!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  13. Naomi

    Michael was ingenious at keeping the merciless paparazzi away from his children. In spite of past boyish mistake(s) – and it would be fair to afford him the same luxury of forgiveness for mistakes that we have afforded ourselves – he was a good, loving dad.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm |
  14. TaRaysha

    Paris made a world realize that Michael was human, a man, a father, a son, a brother. He just had a extraordinary job. but that does not change the fact that his family is grieving for him.

    The senator should issue an apology to the CHILDREN of Michael Jackson. Sometimes people just don't think and media makes people forget that although a individuals job is to entertain they are HUMAN BEINGS–I was ashamed of the words that came out of that senators mouth. I hope he doesn't get re-elected.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  15. Vibha

    I think bringing them to memorial was appropriate. They cant be kept behind the veil always. Also they had to be given the chance to mourn the death of their father. God bless the 3 children. I hope they get the best of everything.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  16. murderousthoughts

    Michael was redeemed–those few words from his daughter redeemed him. He was her DADDY, she loved her DADDY and the children are mourning the loss of their DADDY. DNA doesn't matter, he raised those kids from birth, they loved him, that's all that matters. As they say, "anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a DAD".

    My heart broke when I heard her speak and I do NOT think she was cajoled into it. She spoke from the heart....a baby girl who was saying goodbye to her DADDY. I hope the media will just leave the children alone....Bless their hearts..

    July 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  17. Mike

    I think that it is important that we all remember each person will grieve and heal in their own way. Perhaps having a moment to tell the world how she felt about her father was a step in her own healing process. I feel confident that no one from the Jackson family, or those immediately involved would put her, or her brothers, on display in any fashion that may alter the quality of life they will have going forward.

    I hope that we as good human beings can suprise Anderson, and allow them the freedom and privacy to be "normal" children and experience all the wonders he fears they will no longer have opportunity to.

    God Bless Michael Jackson and his family.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  18. Jessie

    The children were hardly "paraded". They were attending the memorial service for their father. They had every right to be there. Just as Paris had every right to say something. She was obviously moved by everything that day and felt she had to share with the world what MJ was to her...her daddy.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm |
  19. Kimberley

    God bless you little ones may gods love as well as your amazing aunts and uncles comfort you in lots of love and light, your dad would be so proud of you.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  20. Someone You Might Know

    The children are the legacy of the father. They will do him proud as human beings and as icons of a fallen hero. Scorn the family no longer. Scorn the media no longer. Scorn the world no longer.

    Instead, I implore you to open up your heart and begin healing the damage from within. Once you've done that, look around you. The world is beautiful. The world is yours. The world is mine. The world is ours.

    The world is hurting. It is in horrific pain. Michael would have wanted us to do our part to heal the world.

    Lets make it a better place, for you and for me.

    Let the children live. We have a world to save.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  21. Phyllis

    I see nothing has changed, now everyone is going to jump on the Jackson family, they didn't parade them in front of cameras, the kids got up and followed them on stage. Paris wanted to speak, i didn't think it was unusual at all, very sweet,

    July 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  22. Matt

    These children are like royalty – special souls with the blood lines of Michael Jackson and an amazing mother. They have no doubt been highly educated and well cared for. Paris is an amazing spirit and she will be able to draw on the energy and care from her amazing family living and past to help her always. I expect we will see amazing things from her when the time comes for her to leave her own legacy.

    Good for her! Brave and loving people always make the world a better place. Love to them all.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  23. Isabel Siaba (Brazil)

    Paris Jackson will see that the death of a father insurmountable.

    The pain that is within us, to follow us until the end, some days more, other days less. This pain puts to the test our will to survive. But still, we move forward!
    Go, Paris!
    God will give strength to you and your brothers.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  24. Amaka

    Death teaches you so much about life.

    I grew up on MJ, crushed on him, sang along to his songs, and emulated his dance moves I loved him...but honestly thought that it was so strange that he always masked his kids.

    Now I understand why.

    He did it to protect them from the harsh words of the media and people (people on this very discussion board) who criticize and berate him, question and belittle him and his family. How could he have possibly introduced his children to the world with the way the world treated him?!

    The media and so many people around the world have violated the sacred privacy of his children, disparaged his family and their decisions, and wrongly question whether he is the biological parent of the kids, even in death....

    How could you? And who cares who or what they look like! Those children lost BOTH a mother and a father in Michael, and I just plead with God, if nothing else comes out of this madness, that He just be with those children.

    Good and faithful servant, your work here is done... forever RIP Michael

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  25. aly

    God Bless the children, and I sure hope the media will let them live normal lifes.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  26. AUNT DD

    I am heartbroken for the entire Jackson family. They lost a loved one and no matter how you look at it, he was a human and loved by his family. I hate that the media who helped build MJ up was also responsible for beating him down. Shame on the media. Those 3 beautiful children will have to live the rest of their lives with out their father. They say when you in the lime light you have to take the good with the bad. Personally I think there should be a line drawn somewhere. Everyone deserves their privacy no matter if theyn are celebrities or not. It is just so sad. RIP MJ! You will be remembered and loved forever. We are the world! May you never have to face ridicule again for being a soft hearted person always willing to help. God Bless the Jackson family!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  27. Matt

    These children are like royalty – special souls with the blood lines of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. They have no doubt been highly educated and well cared for. Paris is an amazing spirit and she will be able to draw on the energy and care from her amazing family living and past to help her always. I expect we will see amazing things from her when the time comes for her to leave her own legacy.

    Good for her! Brave and loving people always make the world a better place. Love to them all.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  28. DeeDee

    Anderson Cooper where have you been. Michael children faces were on the internet long before he died. So to post this article show very little of how you felt about his legacy and memorial today. They are Michael Jackson's children this is the furneral day of their father. Why wouldn't the family show their faces when Michael allowed their faces to be seen before. You (the media) make me sick to my stomach you will turn something so innocent into something sooooo ugly in the blink of an eye. Before this was posted by you I truly loved your show. Be being a person with a heart and a true fan of the King of Pop and out of respect for the Jackson family... I have truly lost all respect for you as a journalist...... Anderson do your research before you post something soooo negative. Get it together

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  29. Abdul Rasheed

    to: Susan, Sequim WA

    Susan, when you pass, you can have a small service with family and friends. That is because that would probably be what you want. Fair enough.

    Michael Jackson was "born on-stage" so to speak. He felt more at home on stage in front of millions of people cheering his name than he did anywhere else. So it only makes sense to end it like this. It's poetic in it's own way.

    Moreso, once you become a celebrity – a large part of you, if not all of you, starts to belong to everybody who made you what you are. I wouldn't call it a symbiotic relationship between the public and the celebrity, but it would be in that ballpark. I guess that's the "price" you have to pay to be a celebrity. I put price in quotation marks because personally, being the attention whore I am, I would love it if paparazi would chase me around, if people would lament on creating stories about my sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, and if yet despite of all of that, when I passed at the tender age of 50 – the whole world would stop, albeit just for a few moments.

    As much as you represent the typical judgmental type, my only advise to you is try to think from someone else's shoes. This is not your service, it's Michael Jackson's! He was always larger than life, at least to us, so this "circus" that you are referring to, is just as much a "service" as yours or mine will be.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  30. DawnMD

    Now that Michael is gone I don't think the media will harrass them.
    They should be able to have as normal lives as possible.
    The Jackson family seem to be able to handle the media just fine.
    Look at how they handled this whole circus surrounding Michael's death.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  31. Sonia

    I agree that in our celebrity crazed culture, the lives of those children are going to be more complex and problematic now that the whole world knows who they are; however, it is also our responsibility as a culture to stop being so intrigued with this family's every move. Let's stop purchasing tabloids with their fabricated news that encourages paparazzi to justify lack of boundaries and moral decency in hunting celebrities, for a scoop.

    Michael Jackson and his family may have chosen a career that made them celebrities. Does this mean they have no rights to privacy? Does this mean that if we see them in the streets we are to hunt them like animals?

    To me this is a reminder of what happened to Princess Diana.

    The media has a responsibility towards culture and moral decency. Stop worrying about your TV ratings and let's remember that behind the celebrities there are human beings.

    Let's be kinder and more respectful. Let's send the message that from now on, this culture has looked at itself in the mirror and it has decided to change. Thank you.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  32. mar

    God bless you MJ and your beautiful children. May their lives from today on start to get some form of normalcy. The family is instrumental in helping them through these rough times.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  33. Courtney Smith-Wright

    As humans we have our opinions about everyone and everything. But after someone is gone, can't we just let them REST? If that-- really was one of our family members, would we want to hear all the persecussion and the ridicule after they are gone? Let that family mourn the way we would all want to. We all have sins and convictions, let GOD be the judge and that be between him and his maker. As for shielding the kids, his son was going to be on tour with him, so obvioulsly their identities would have been revealed anyway. People like the authors of this article need to stop twisting peoples words. The children are a little old enough to express the way they feel if they wanted to, and just think if that were your father or any family member for that matter, You would defend them and their memory. Rest on Micheal..... Rest on.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  34. Alana

    People who are going to insult Michael based on claims for which there is no proof should not be allowed to comment here. This is not the time or the place. The world is mourning the loss of a superior entertainer and a father whose children will greatly miss him. Anyone who actually took the time to look into the child molestation allegations would find that it's actually a lot more likely that he is innocent, given the conflicting information that is out there. Don't blindly parrot the negativity that you've heard others say unless you know something we don't...as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee so aptly reminded us today, "innocent before proven guilty."

    July 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  35. Robet Navarro

    Anderson, your show is becoming more and more tabloid like all the others with having people speculating on Jackson's kids, welath etc. on their with no credit. just to get the 'story' out. CNN is changing with thetimes I guess. Too Bad, use to be News we could rely on with facts. But I still won't switch to FOX, they flat out lie. So I am stuck with you so step it up huh, Your Better Than That....

    July 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  36. Ann

    Betty Williams, to those children Michael Jackson is their father; all this endless speculation in the media and by people like you is so hurtful to the children.
    In this country's quest to know every detail of everyone's personal life nothing is private anymore...the will and all court proceedings that have anything to do with the children should be sealed.
    The way friends and family have shown photos of the children and put them on stage at the memorial when MJ tried to shield them from exposure (no matter whose idea it was), just shows that even in death he is being used by those who are supposedly closest to him.
    The family had a private service, to me that would have been the appropriate place for the children to speak, not at this memorial.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  37. kibo

    For those calling MJ a child molester. Where's the proof? He was acquitted of all charges. A child cannot lie and I'm sure she and her brothers were truly loved and taken care of by MJ. Those who can't see past the accusations and believe it's nothing but the fact that he was a child molester only shows how small of the view they have of this world. Shielding the faces of the child was probably to prevent their pictures being exploited by magazines and papparazzi's and only recently do you see more pictures of them without those veils. It probably means MJ felt it was time and that they were old enough to handle those who invade their privacy. You can't deny MJ's talent and the music he brought to all of us. RIP MJ.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  38. Damaris

    "dangling" the baby was a mistake he admitted to. he wanted to show the baby. He's was the father not the mother. Dad's do things differently. How many moms can give stories of things their husbands have done that left them scratching their heads. no one is perfect, we all make mistakes. And as for masks - it wasnt' all the time. media loves to make mountains out of mole hills. i guess that's what keeps you employed. now that the poor man is gone, have some decency and respect his children. And for those how claim his children were being paraded at the memorial - remember it was a memorial for their DAD and if the kids wanted to speak they are entitled to. They should have no regrets.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  39. DawnMD

    I think their recognition is a double-edge sword as for all child entertainers.
    Listen to what Brooke Sheids had to say about her and Michal's common connection.
    These children's balance depends largely on how they are raised.
    I think although Michael may have tried to sheld them from the public, I bet their lives were a bit strange. I cannot think that with Michael's addictions and lifestyle, these children had difficult lives.
    I do think that the Jackson family has the money and life to be ablt to provide with as normal a life as possible. They will have other children to play with and be close to their father's family, which is the only family they know.
    I hope they stay with them.
    They don't know their mother and I bet they would resent going to live with her and what about blanket?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  40. Kevin

    It was truly a touching moment, so obvious she loved her Daddy.

    I don't believe a word of the allegations. If your child was molested, by anyone, how much money would YOU take for him to walk?

    And in the trial, he was found NOT GUILTY. Why is it that we don't have people coming out of the woodwork screaming when a jury finds someone guilty? That is always right? He was acquitted of all charges by a jury. Why do we still question his guilt or innocence? That would seem to make the entire criminal justice system a joke.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  41. LadyT

    I think the greatest service this memorial did for these children is to put them out there. No more hiding behind the masks and veils because now the mystery is gone. They are normal children. They hurt. They mourn for their daddy. They are NOT circus freaks that people are desperate to get a glance of. By taking off the masks and showing their human-ness; their normalcy, maybe the world will leave them alone now and let them grow and flourish as normal children – the way their father never could.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  42. Yvonne, Phoenix, AZ

    Paris is an 11 year old child who loved her "Daddy" and told the world. At this time there was no point in hiding her any loner. She needed to grieve and have closure as well as all of us who cared about Michael Jackson.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  43. sandi

    Give thes kids a break, Anderson Cooper – stop STIll trying to find fault in their lives. What I saw on television was Janet ask Paris a question while Marlon was speaking; then she held Paris' hand. Paris wanted to express her love for her daddy, and the family understood that. I also saw Paris speak and then turn to her aunts for comfort, and Janet was right there to hug and hug her. They will do well in the love of the Jackson family, they'll do well by these kids; so back off Anderson Cooper.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  44. Maya A.

    Mr.Cooper nobody really knows what it means to lose Michael Jackson other then his family and kids. There are many of us if not all, who will miss Michael Jackson but the ones who will miss him most is his family, as seen by his daughter Paris. She stood up and showed the world that he was more then just a singer, dancer but that he was a father.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  45. Louisiana


    Paris summed it all up for us all!!!

    God Bless these 3 chidren, may they find peace and happiness
    knowing what they meant to their dear departed father!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  46. Elizabeth

    If Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe were legally married at the time Debbie gave birth to her son and daughter then Michael Jackson is considered to be their legal father and no adoption is necessary. The point is moot. The question could arise in regard to the legal paternity of the youngest son who allegedly was born to a surrogate mother. My question would be "What difference does it make to someone who was not a member of the Jackson family?" People are obsessing over this and many of us would like to just get on with life. Let the dead rest in peace and let those whose business it really is (i.e. the family) deal with the rest of it.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  47. Parker Manos

    Paris did what grown men and women can not do, will not do, refuse to do... she crossed the racial barrier with one word... "Daddy"

    There are great things to come in Michael Jackson's childrens future and I for one am glad I am here to see it. I wish Michael was....

    July 7, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  48. Isabell- Indiana

    "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."

    Why couldn't you be silent with your negative comments for one day!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  49. Julie

    What an amazing family, history and gift to the world.
    Prayers will be needed for the children as well as the rest of the family.
    My heart is sad. I felt this way when Princess Diana died too. So sad. My prayers will be for this family. I'm sure things are going to grow more difficult for them in the coming weeks and months.

    Michael will truly be missed.............so very sad.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  50. Annie Kate

    If the children stay out of sight for a few months and let things die down people will probably forget what they look like – they are lucky in that they are in the age group where kids look a lot alike. I hope they can lead a somewhat normal life.

    As for Michael being the father – legally he was married to their mother (Rowe) when they were born so legally he is their father. Not sure of the circumstances of the 3rd child but am sure his lawyers would have been very careful to ensure the legality of it. Biologically is he the father? Who knows?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
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