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. Susan

    What on earth are you talking about? The children did not have a 'normal' life before. It is not normal to take children out wearing masks or veils!!!! Removing their masks and veils MAKES THEM NORMAL.
    MANY children of celebrities are out in the world. That is just the way it is. It is far more healthy to do things with them like other parents do and teach them that because of their parents, cameras will always be flashing in their faces. Keeping them hidden behind masks was ridiculous. I am glad they are no longer expected to wear those.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:34 pm |
  2. jasmine

    I'm sad that he has died and liked his music and dancing, however I also feel a little angry with him. He had 3 children who depended on him to be there, and there he was, taking medications for his sleep deprivation. He should've stayed away from the drugs, and I don't care that they were "prescribed". He took a chance with his life and as a result, 3 children are left without a dad.
    I also wonder if his little girl wanted to say something, or if the family wanted her to speak. Being in front of a large audience must be normal for the Jackson adults, but to me that little girl looked scared as well as sad. And I also heard her aunt telling her to speak up and saw the aunt adjusting the mic.
    And finally, if the state of CA wants help for the millions it supposedly cost for the extra security, I think the family should be the ones to pay for it.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  3. Lynne

    I fear the children will soon be in the middle of a huge custody battle between Cindy Rowe, the mother of the 2 oldest, and Katherine Jackson.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  4. jay

    When Paris stepped up to the microphone and started shedding tears i lost it. I have been a big Michael Jackson fan for all of my life. Once I saw her is when it really hit me that Michael has really left us. That ceremony couldn't have ended any better than it did. I got choked up when I watched Usher perform and walk over to the casket as if he was singing directly to him, but when his daughter said what she did I had tears streaming down my face....Very heart warming moment. Michael will be missed, but will be celebrated for many years to come. I love you Michael! You have touched so many people.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  5. Maria

    Please tell everyone you know not approach Michael's kids out of respect for him. He kept them veiled and wanted them shielded from the public and now after the memorial all now know who they are.
    God bless the Jackson's(Joe,Katherine, Reba, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Janet, and Randy also their children). I especially pray for Michael's kids Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket. May the Lord keep them safe and keep them strong.
    May you all cherish the memories of a talented and gifted man. Michael J.,we love you and will never forget the gift you shared with the world!!!
    I hope he knew how much he was truly LOVED!!!!!
    With MUCH Respect,

    July 7, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  6. BJ

    I feel for those children so consider what's right. They belong with their mother - their only known biological parent. MJ may have acted in the role of father to these children, but you have be delusional to think that he's really their biological father. Let Debbie Rowe have her kids back before the influence of Joe and Katherine screws them up for life too. That's the right thing to do.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  7. Mike

    The Celebrity and Race barriers were destroyed in ONE WORD..."DADDY".

    Leave the children alone!!!

    July 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm |
  8. Deborah

    Please CNN don't join this band wagon. These children have and will no doubt continuously have a lot to deal with. We, the people will make sure of that. If we've learned nothing else from Michael Jackson's life; we have learned how calous and cruel we can be. At the end of the day these are real people and families who need a lot of prayer.
    If there is just a little good that we can do for others (whether we get recognition for it or not) to help make their world better we should do so; or at least not knowingly add to the difficulty. It cost us nothing to be kind and considerate even in the name of journalism.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm |
  9. Bruce

    They will finally be able to live a normal life.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:25 pm |
  10. gina

    I don't think they kids were "outed". This was their father's funeral. Of course they would be there, of course they would want to speak. He was their father whether by blood or adoption; some adoptive parents treat their children better than blood parents. The point is, these children were and are CLEARLY loved and cared for. I think if the children were dazed it is understandable because it is a lot to take in; that their father touched THIS many lives...For the average child it would be overwhelming to say that final goodbye for these children probably 100 times so because of the amount of people, flashbulbs, etc. But the pain is the same you can bet. These children look verrry well adjusted to me despite everything happening to them. Perhaps that is because their dad knew the worth of being a child.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  11. Ian

    He was the only father these children had, so stop talking about him being their real father or not. Of course he was.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  12. Francesca

    Wow Tom Foreman’s article was very poignant and the reality is of this family they will always be judged. There’s no way around it. Exposing and revealing the children’s identity a smart move from the Jackson clan? Historically when it comes to their family have they ever done things “normal”?

    July 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  13. Willea Burton

    It is a good thing I am unemployed. I have been crying since June 25th. When Paris spoke those sentimental words about her dad, I haven't stopped crying yet. and by the way Anderson Cooper...How do you keep it together all the time. You are great.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  14. Bibi

    I would like to think that the Paparazzi will give those kids a break for the next few years, but that will be determined by who ends up being the final guardian. I have seen recent photos of them and also recognized who they were. I think Michael did a terrific job, keeping them under wraps as very young children, but they are older now and I wouldn't be surprised if they asked to take those veils off. My heart goes out to them because they lost the only father they ever knew and he seemed to have been a good one.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  15. toni

    Would somebody tel Jeffrey Toobin that simply because someone has a child in their bed, it does not mean that they have sinister motives. All are not of this jaded world

    July 7, 2009 at 8:18 pm |
  16. Elaine Hamaker

    Something we must remember is that without Michael Jackson, our lives and world today would be very, very different. One only need release his or her imagination to realize the difference MJ made in each of our lives.
    The fun we had dancing to his music.
    The wonder and joy we experienced watching him perform.
    The doors he helped open to people of color.
    The thoughts his musical lyrics prompted us to consider. For example, "We Are the World;" emploring each of us to empathize with and care for others - especially the powerless.
    Hopefully, Paris Jackson's beautiful expression of love for her father began to melt those hearts who failed to fully appreciate Michael Jackson's gentle soul.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  17. Marisa Szczepan


    He was found not guilty! WHy would you want to spread such negativity and hate on a day like today? The day we are honoring his life and legacy. save your negativity for tomorrow. I hope your mother isnt watching you because she would not be proud.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  18. Tony

    Lost in all of this is the fact that these children are clearly not Michael Jackson's biological offspring. Their skin tone and appearance lends credence to the story, reported by many legitimate news outlets, that these children biologically belong to Debbie Rowe and to MJ's dermatolgist.

    I have no doubt that Paris was sincere when she said what she said, but I would have a lot more respect for all of the parties involved if they came clean about what really happened here. Anything short of the truth, makes it seem like MJ got these kids because of his money and his ability to pay other to stay quiet.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  19. Danielle

    We Love You Michael!! Can't wait to see you in HEAVEN.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  20. elZorro

    The 'king of pop is dead'... Even kings die... Mortal kings, just like anybody else on this world....

    July 7, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  21. Pia Saavedra, MNL, RP

    Celebrity is celebrity. The real reason we keep hamming it up is because we cannot make do without celebrity. The fact is that Michael Jackson became famous, he was stellar in the eyes of plenty and a monster to a number of others. His children are his children. What we make of them and how their lives will be known to us is also dependent on us. Michael's death also should remind us that there is always cause and effect. Our perceptions are our own. In the end, it is all about respect. The kids cannot do anything about the fact that they are Michael Jackson's kids. We can help it, however, by respecting the fact that we need to live and let live.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  22. bud

    My heart aches for those kids. I could not stop crying after Paris spoke. I come from a large family who lost two brothers at young ages. Both those brothers had young children and we wanted to do anything we could to protect them. However, some of those children wanted very badly to speak at their father's funeral. They wanted everyone to know what he meant to them. It was difficult but healing for them. Don't be too critical. Those kids want the world to know he wasn't just the King of Pop...he was their Pop and they loved him. I think it puts the circus in perspective. In the end, no matter what you think, he was a son, brother, father and friend to many who loved him and lost him too soon.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  23. cy

    comon people. do we now to go after the kids because she was told to speak up. the poor girl is so distraut that she could not get a word out. and u can see how she turn to hold her aunt. it is hard, lets not start judging them like we did their dad to death and still after death.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  24. Cheri

    After listening to Paris and how much she loved her father, that should put an end to the question as to her dad and her family really are.

    Having the media try to figure out "who the real dad is" is one of the most disgusting displays of journalism I have seen or heard. Would you do this to any other child of a celebrity? Why is it any of our business as to who the biological parents are and why does the media think they have a right to know? This is where journalism and our "need to know" crosses the line. There has to be a few things that are left out of the news and this is one of those things. This is family business, not the publics.

    There dad is MJ, enough said.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:10 pm |
  25. Becky

    The way I saw the video and heard the voices – Janet and the other members of the family where telling her to speak up – saying you have to speak up [in order to be heard] not you have to speak. It seemed to me that she chose to speak and since she was making such an effort in her grief, the family just wanted her effort to be heard.

    As protected as she seems to have been it would seem that she may not be unaware of how her father was viewed by some...

    I hope the 3 kids get to live lives they want to live.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  26. Anne

    I have no doubt MJ was a wonderful, loving, sharing, caring, devoted father. Yes, he had his tweaks, but, duh – I wonder why!

    Upon hearing of his death, my very first thought was – ok – how are they going to make money off of his funeral – and secondly, not are – but how – are those poor children going to be used and abused to continue to money machine.

    I sincerely hope my expectations are inaccurate.

    May the gentle man rest in peace and not roll in his grave.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  27. Chicago

    This circus is finally over. This shows how fickled we as African American really are. We will never be taken seriously as a people again because of the way we behave in situations like this. True Michael was a great musician... the world must acknowledge that. But when a 40+ year old goes on television and states that he shares his bed with little boys, we as African Americans, should have separated ourselves from him whether he is black or not. There are many who give what they call reasons for him doing this, as if having a reason makes it right. Hitler had reasons for what he did. He was still wrong in doing it. But the main reason we as African Americans should disconnect ourselves from the very memory of MJ is because he went to great lengths not to have black children. He apparently did not want the black race to continue. This is the same position that the KKK , Aryan Nation, and other white hate groups take. They, like MJ, want to stop the procreation of the African American race.

    So long Michael, you were a great entertainer, but entertainment is not as high on my list as morality, self esteem, and simply being a responsible adult. Paul stated in the bible, "When I was a child, I did as a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, when I became a man, I put away childish things" Michael apparently never grew up or put away childish things. This is an indication of retardation or simply perverted behavior!!

    July 7, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  28. jenny rome ga

    I walked in to my mothers house to check up on her this afternoon as I usually do several times a week. I walked in to find her in tears. The Jackson funeral was on the television. Paris had just finished speaking about her father. That beautiful child had just reduced my mother to tears with her declaration of love for her father. Now my mom was no Michael Jackson fan. She is an 80 year old white Southern woman who thought Michael Jackson ws awful and vulgar. She said "I never realized what a good man and father he must have been to those children." Thank you Paris for allowing us all to see the man behind the mask.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  29. Leila

    They'll be followed by papparazzi no matter what, with or without veils/masks. At least now they're free to be who they are and not having to wear those ridiculous disguises. I'm sure no kid likes to stand out like that.

    One thing that bothers me and nobody mentions: if Michael was such a good father, how come he self-destructed so badly with drugs, rather than trying to remain clean, healthy and strong to live long for his kids' sake?

    July 7, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  30. Alisha W

    Since when did these kids ever have a chance at a normal childhood? Their father was hunted by paparazzi for something as simple as the way he looked. So much for Americans being the accepting type, regardless of what a person looks like. The children are old enough to have an opinion, I highly doubt the family would have gone against their wishes if they had preferred to stay hidden. As for Paris Michael Katherine speaking out. . . her speaking is as real as it gets and her "daddy" may have made some PR mistakes in his career, but that doesn't mean he wasn't human and deserving of respect for the wonderful things he tried to teach us.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  31. Alan

    Am I the only one who finds it sadly ironic that this article and accompanying picture perpetuates the issue described?

    July 7, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  32. Erica

    The frenzy over Jackson's death surpasses what I remember about JFK's death. This seems to me bizarre in the extreme. Jackson was a mesmerizing performer but he hardly rises to the level of a world changer (contrary to what Al Sharpton says). Why is the world going crazy over every aspect of his life and death? I'm absolutely astonished at the coverage this is receiving from what I had always thought of as legitimate media, like CNN. Frankly, my respect for CNN and other media outlets has declined exponentially, and I doubt I will watch them to the same degree I had previously. I find myself wondering about what's going on in Iran, N. Korea, China and other global hotspots, but I can't seem to find much incisive coverage. The media's thirst for ratings and money has caused it to compromise
    it's integrity, and the Jackson circus, which it has fueled, only highlights this sad state of affairs.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:04 pm |
  33. Cynthia

    I hate when people and religious leaders, who should know better, claim that God "took" someone in death. That is so ridiculous. That would be like saying a father, caused the death of his child because he/she was needed in heaven. Get real people! Dig deeper and stop taking the easy way out for everything – and definitely stop listening to religious leaders who give "scripturally unfounded" false comfort!

    July 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  34. Julie Switzky

    So Anderson, in essence, after reading your thoughts, MJ was a good father. He tried to protect his children like we all do. There is nothing wrong with being isolated or protected as a child. We have many years to find out the horrors of life. It is good to be protected and isolated from this very big world until we are mature enough to try to understand it.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  35. Dawn Brown

    What ever you think of MJ he was a son, a brother, a father and obviously a good friend. If you died today, how many friends and family would come forward to praise you. Unless, you can count as many as he had there today, then let him RIP. He was a musical genius which will probably never be equaled. He has influenced the lives of millions of people and will continue to do so for years to come. He truly has left the world a better place. Again, I ask, if you died today, would anyone say that about you, If not then pick on somebody else! My sincere sympathy to his children and family and friends. I will always be a fan!!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:59 pm |
  36. KD

    Yes, the children will now never have the childhood that MJ wanted so badly for himself, which he tried to give to them by disguising them in public. I am so tired of hearing the media refer to this behavior as "bizarre." What is so bizarre about wanting your children to be safe, and wanting them to be able to have a somewhat normal life when their father wasn't around? I read a quote by MJ that said (paraphrasing) he turned it into a game for them–they wore disguises in out in public with him so that when they went out in public without him, they wouldn't need to be masked, and they could have normal interactions with the public. What is so "bizarre" about that?

    July 7, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  37. Ms Throwback

    God bless the children of MJJ. Children of old were best seen but not heard. Children today are best heard but not seen. There is so much in this world that can take away the innocence of a child and every parent should take care to shield their child. Was MJJ any different? Would one hand their child over to a complete stranger? Or would it best be to reveal that bit of innocence in the comfort and shelter of those who love them most? The family was protective the whole time they were up there(on stage) and I'm going to guess the children asked to take a part of the celebration of their father's life. If not they could have stayed with their grandmother, Katherine Jackson. Whenever you are part of the public, the public wants to take over in whatever way they can. So, we didn't see them when they were young. Can you identify all of the other Jackson children of every generation? I don't think so, so "Just leave them alone". Be blessed children and family and take solace that your father, son, brother, uncle, cousin and best friend is at peace. All the world loves a smile. 🙂

    July 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  38. S Callahan

    I've thought about them alot...and pray they are not victimied by the adult circus of lust for money on Michael's name. I feel very strongly that the one capable to care for and love these children into adulthood is the Nanny that has mothered them for years...this woman holds their memories with them, has given them her unconditional love , time, attention to make them the humble and sensitive children they are, along with the emotional security she gave them. All the adults in their battle to control their direction need to look at the children's heart and respond to it for the sake of the children.....They will be in my prayers for a long time.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  39. Kendall

    Paris's speech at the end of the memorial service today is no different than John John saluting his father's casket during JFK's funeral.

    We were all reminded that although the world lost an icon, there are three children who lost their daddy. I don't know that I will ever be able to hear a Michael Jackson song again without saying a quick prayer for Prince, Paris and Blanket.

    I hope the media and the surrogate mother now leave them alone to grow up in peace.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  40. cy

    may he still watch over his kids and all the kids he had loved for the better. im, african,my 4 yr old cousine was daignosed with leukamia in the late 90's( may his soul rest in peace.) michael in one of his tours in germany visited the children hospital he was at and yes he helped our family with some money for his treatment. sorry, the world did not hear you out for the greed of money.
    and for the danm rep. you got your 15munite of fame not because of the budget you helped pass but because you spoke about MJ. now go back and sit on my tax money doing nothing. i wonder the last time you visited any school in your district. ohhh, u hate kids!!!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  41. Michelle

    Those kids could be leave alone!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  42. helen

    Sadly there were no white major entertainer present at the memorial ,like Elton John ,Mike Jagger, Bon Jovi ,Metallic britney Spears etc,where these people?? No one deserve to die and we dont ask to leave this world either but death is for all. We all are people and should love each other just like MJ. He will be miss by many an he will live on in his children heart. My heart goes out to the children..

    July 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  43. Naomi

    If society could just have the will power to respect the children's space and privacy, to boycott any print, video, or media directly related to Michael Jackson's children, they may be able to stand a fighting chance.

    However, the sad reality is just as stated in this AC360 article " 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.".

    July 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm |
  44. Charles

    The words of a Daughter summed it all up. I wonder What King thought when he inadvertently called the 24 Jurors and the 2 judges who acquited her father 'Stupid" and "Idiots" by implting they did the wrong thing. How can you be in congress and not respect the law where one is innocent until proven guilty. Michael proved innocent twice..King should stop being a hater because we as Michael Jackson Fans the only thing we can do is LOVE!!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  45. Suzanne

    I am heartbroken about Michael's death. I still gasp when I think about it. I too picked up on the fact that he worked so hard to keep his kids out of the limelight.. he did that for a reason and you'd think his family would have understood that. I realize that there were already some pictures out there, but I really didn't expect what we saw saw today. Paris is obviously a brave, brave and strong little girl. Blanket looked confused and intimidated and rightly so. Prince also looked l abit dazed. This is all so wrong. I just hope that they are with the person with persons who they feel the closest and safest to and who will be able to explain these awful things in a way that will not hinder their spirit.
    We lost Michael in a way that shouldn't have happened, we will forever love him, admire him.. for the superstar that he was and the great humanitarian as well. My song? "Shake your body down to the ground" I will be dancing to that song until the day I die. I feel that so many people connected with Michael through his music more than ever before and in a way that will never happen again with any entertainer. I'm just so sad. Thanks Michael for you're great efforts and all your love. God is looking on and will keep you close, you have to be one of his favorites : )

    July 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  46. Kim

    I am just going to pray for the three kids. I have lost my mother & father and have three children of my own who miss them dearly. I can only imagine being so young loosing your Father with no Mother who is there to pick you up. Well as of yet I have not heard for sure she will take the kids. I am not going to talk bad about her either until I see what she does in the future.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  47. Gloia In Ky

    I'm tired of people saying what Joe Jackson will do to MJ children.
    He is way to old to hurt them. He would never attempt to hurt those children in this day and age. In case you all didn't know back in the 60's and 70's thats how black children were kept in line. I'm not saying it was right, but ask any black person over 40 and they will tell you how they were disciplined. Some to much, others not enough.
    The children had every right to be at the memorial for their father, I truly believe that it will help them grieve. The Jacksons were not parading the children in front of the public. Sooner or later the mask had to come off. With the mask or without the children would still be in the public eye. What needs to happen is for the Media to stop speculating what will happen. The media is the No.1 problem in always looking for conflict and negativity. Why don't you all leave the Jacksons be. Let Michael rest. I will only look at Michael and all his family in a positive light. Remember God don't like ugly. Love to Janet.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  48. ben

    i don't think nobody paraded her in front of the camera. i think she wanted to be like the other members of the family and say something. i noticed they asked her older brother and he said no. she did great!

    July 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  49. Miss Mina

    I cried all day. The children are beautiful. Paris broke my heart. My daddy died 21 years ago. I still cry everyday.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  50. Audrey S.

    I think that being raised in a "Showbiz" family, it was instinct that caused her aunts and uncles to assist her, or give her instructions on public speaking. You as relatives never told children in your family to sit up straight, or tie their shoes? Same thing.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8