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. Pat in IL

    I know Michael Jackson has a lot of very loyal fans, but to start calling him "King" is pushing it. That title has already been given to Elvis, and I think the Jackson fans can come up with another title of their own.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  2. yolanda

    may god bless micheal children this moment was a sad one

    July 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  3. Brandy

    Michael will live on, he will never be duplicated but imitated we lost talent.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm |
  4. Pia Saavedra, MNL, RP

    Tom, we realize that, of course, this is a story. Like any writer, you write what you firmly believe is true.
    You are being true to yourself.
    Thank God, for the first amendment.

    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.

    means you do have a measure of respect for the kids and the rest of MJ's kith and kin. That you respect the kids' lives is apparent. It could have been better phrased, though.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:24 pm |
  5. Teresa, OH

    While Michael thought it important to keep the childrens faces covered, the Jackson clan felt it was safe enough to show. I hope the media will leave these kids alone as they couldnt help who their father is. I think Michael would be so pleased with how his children have handled this and how his family is embracing his kids. Job well done by all, and especially Michael.

    On another note, it is 100% obvious that Paris is the biological daughter of Debbie Rowe... and it looks pretty much like she is the daughter of the dermatologist dr.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  6. puggles

    The children did not have to go up with everyone else, but wanted to – for the We are the World/Heal the World.
    The original comment was that Janet had something to say, but it was apparently Paris. I think the "speak up" was because there was concern that she was so soft spoken and far enough away from the microphone that all might not hear her brave words of love.

    And, the kids arent freaks. Give the hoopla a week or so to die down and they likely will be able to go to public school if they so desire. They are not likely to be hanging about Rodeo Drive or the Club circuit. And, they learned the art of disguises from their father. They'll do just fine.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  7. Carol

    Loving and missing MJ, but he did not invent rock & roll fundraising and neither did Bob Geldof. Does anyone remember the "Concert for Bangladesh?" Waaaay back when and it was George Harrison of the Beatles who created it.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm |
  8. Nicole

    Just a note Rep. King's comments on MJ. MJ was acquitted of the charges brought against him. How dare a political figure make such hateful and ignorant comments. Do we need a hate monger in office. Why isn't he forced to resign or be kicked out of office. Don Imus lost his job for making similar comments because people would not tolerate his ignorance. People should stand up and demand he be "publicly" crucified for his comments. GET HIM OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!
    MJ contibuted alot to music and cared about the human condition. He should be remembered for all the good he did, not slandered by ignorant people (politicians, media). He was acquitted!!! DROP IT!!

    Rest in Peace Michael. You will be missed, but always remembered

    July 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm |
  9. joe

    why are people so obsessed with this whole ordeal? was he a musical genius? absolutely, was he a an excellent father? it appears he was. Leave this family alone now and let them grieve for their father, brother, and son. My only hope is the media finally backs off and lets the jackson family mourn in private.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm |
  10. Maria L Castorena

    I do not understand why the media – you – will not leave his kids alone. You I am sure are a parent or a son and must feel the heartache. It is therefore up to YOU to leave these kids alone and show some MERCY. Try to forget the dollar bills and simply leave them alone. I am certian too that Anderson could sympathize as he too had a famous parent.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:18 pm |
  11. WJYD

    Agreed the faces of the kids are vaguely familiar to us, they have been in some magazines. But MJ never DELIBERATELY put them on display like they were today. Yea, the veils and masks were odd but, given the circumstances of his life, I think understandable. But I don't think it fair to judge todays ONE situation, his funeral. Now, in the coming months, if the kids start giving interviews or are allowed to be purposefully photographed – then there may be cause for concern over exploitation. But not yet. Not for today's circumstances.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  12. Angela, Charlotte NC

    Well, it looked like typical Jackson lack of respect for the children in their family. Michael was exploited, and now he has gone, his children, blood or not, are paraded in front of millions. He must have been turning over in his coffin to see them out there, when he tried so hard to keep them out of the limelight. Shame on them indeed!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
  13. Anna

    Speaking as a former child who lost a parent, I know that the ability of these children to express their grief, no matter how public they chose for it to be, is far more important than keeping them safe from the press for the next several years. Paris is a brave little girl, and I commend the Jackson family for allowing her to say her very public good-bye to her Dad.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  14. vi

    the man sang and danced...to think otherwise is just stupid. to hell with all the mess going wrong in this world...mike died...life is over. the poor kids, how will they ever make it. so many kids without fathers in this world, so many kids go hungry , so many abused and we are crying over these three rich white kids.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:10 pm |
  15. Watcher09

    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.

    Michael raised these kids regardless of whether or not they are biologically his.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  16. Rachal

    Parading their kids around at this circus??? You idiots! That was a memorial..a real memorial that the family so graciously offered to us- the fans and the people that loved him. If the children wanted and needed to be there, than they should be there. That was their FATHER!!! Just as if your parent or loved one passed and you wanted to say something moving about them, then why should Paris not be given that chance? For the ignorant jerk that said that Michael spent his life trying to be white – how wrong you are. He had a skin disease. He has given so much to the black community as well as to the world. His leading ladies in his videos were beautiful black women. He often surrounded himself with black people. He never tried to pass. He loved Africa and gave to it so often. Honestly, think before you speak. If you look at the children you can clearly see the olive in their skin and it is evident that they are bi-racial. Also, Prince has his father's nose and eyes. You can not fake that. Please let this man rest!! You tried so hard to tear him down in life...this beautiful soul. Let him Rest In Peace...

    July 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  17. Mark

    Seems to me that they were hidden from the media so that no-one would question why they were blonde hair and blue eyed...

    July 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  18. Tracy

    R.I.P. Michael my thoughts and prayers are with the family. I grew up listening to his music walking around the block with friends carrying a boom box jamming to Michaels music. He was truly "real" and will greatly be missed by all. He leaves behind a legacy that know one will ever surpass. His children and family should feel blessed to have had such an extrordinary man in their life. I just wish that all the media would let them mourn in peace, just like any other families. They are human and have hearts that ache at this tragic time. god bless, trevino's -Ozona, Tx

    July 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  19. Nathalie Aquino

    I'm really going to miss you a lot Michael Jackson! You were the best of all, I love you so much Michael. R.I.P. May the Angel of the Lord guide you to Heaven. We will always remember you eventough you gone forever, your Music will stay with us forever and ever. God Bless

    July 7, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  20. marianne

    It took guts and poise for Paris to even ask to speak, her aunts and uncles telling sweet little Paris to speak up was only so that everyone could hear what she had to say. In no way can that be considered parading. If they had veils or masks on, or if they had not showed up, the same people would have remarked negatively on that too. There are always two ways to look at everything. Those that reacted negatively are negative people looking for the worst in everything and everyone. I hope that people will leave them to live normal happy lives and know that their father (biologically or not) love them and tried to change the world into a better place.

    Peace be with you all....

    July 7, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  21. Renee

    Those who say they love Michael and want the best for his kids – i ask you to avoid buying magazines that have stories about them and photos of them. Resist the temptation to read online articles that exploit them. Anyone who wants to honor Michael Jackson could do so best by giving his children what he wanted for them - safety, security, some sense of normalcy, and privacy.

    Aside from that, why was Brooke Shields the center of attention? They were not close. She admitted she had not seen him in 18 years. I respect Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor who chose to honor his memory privately.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  22. Rosalia

    Honestly I do not believe that a child should be put though such an ordeal. It is already very emotional having to lose a parent but then to speak before a crowd.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  23. 2fun4u

    I'm so glad they let her talk, she is a young lady wanting to share the love she has for her Daddy. My family would not let me talk and my fathers memorial service, and it breaks my heart to this day the I didn't.
    Thank You Paris, your a brave young lady!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:02 pm |
  24. Lily

    My heart broke when Paris spoke of her "daddy" – this precious little girl has lost her daddy, and suddenly Michael's entire identity is re-created. I believe he knew that above all else, beyond his enormous stardom and comet streak fame, he was a father. Paris let the world know that love between a child and a daddy is universal, and magnificent!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  25. Kay

    In response to Mike from Syracuse: In fact Congress DID honor the firefighters & police of 9/11 with not only a moment of silence, but Resolutions as well. And, don't believe all the misinformation and speculations about his fortune. He died a very rich man, just with mostly non- liquid assets. There are plenty of wealthy folks who lack cash liquidity. And, finally, there are thousands of us who believe what the jury found – that he was not guilty. I, for one, believe the truth will come out eventually, now that's he's gone. I pray for you and others who are so closed minded that you cannot give credit to where credit is due. Michael did great things. As an African American, I can appreciate the contributions of Elvis (whose death got similar coverage BTW ) even though early in his career he denigrated blacks. God bless all who believe in faith, hope & love & spreading them throughout the world – like Mike.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
  26. xxxx

    God Bless those beautiful kids! ... I know MJ from the heaven is protecting those little ones....

    July 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
  27. K-Tea

    Until the angels close my eyes, I can't imagine seeing life without you.
    Thank you Michael for your art....

    July 7, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  28. Kathy, Andover

    what a bunch of busy bodies . . . that includes you, Tom Foreman!

    July 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  29. Kel

    Paris put the final touch on the memorial. She reminded everyone that Michael Jackson was a man, father, brother and son. I believe the Jackson family is the best place for the children and they have a support system that can't be matched. May God bless them all!!
    RIP, Michael Jackson.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  30. Jean (Plantation, FL)

    I agree that Michael Jackson would probably have disapproved his kids being paraded on stage to the world by his family during the memorial service on his honor. Probably the family felt compelled to do that being under the heat of the moment.

    I only hope they will have a very peaceful life. I wish they enjoy the childhood that his father never had. I wish them luck and offer my condolences to the Jackson family. I am still in shock.

    One last thing: I hope the Jackson family will sue Rep Peter King for accusing Michael of being a Pedophile while he was acquited of exactly that. How dare he. I hope he is not one of those republicans in the closet waiting to be outed.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  31. Angela

    I totally agree. I believe Michael would not have approved of that happening and it was by her aunt that has no children so she would not realize how much she should have shielded those kids. It is a sad shame and a mistake that I hope will not happen again. Michael loved his children and shielded them and himself from the world so now I hope that who ever is in charge of those children will do the same!
    RIP Michael Jackson

    July 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  32. Kendall

    Today was a day for all of us to remember and pay hommage to a great, yet troubled man who also happened to be a GREAT entertainer. He was also a humanitarian who wanted to see the human conditon made better on every level, especially for children.

    I believe that it is hard for many of us to understand the love that Michael had for children because very few of us have experienced that magnitude of love in our own lives.

    Michael was a rare soul. Even though he'd experienced so much pain in his own life, he was still able to show compassion, care and love for others. I believe that it was the pain in his life that allowed him to be a vessel for the love and compassion that we witnessed coming through him. That pain was like the fire of purification. It opened and readied his heart to pour out love among those who were there as willing receipients and even to those who may not have been so willing.

    Over the next few weeks, months and years we will hear all manner of comments about Michael, some good, some not so good. Those of us who REALLY loved him will continue to love him no matter what is said about him. Those who weren't sure about how to feel toward him are still straddling the fence and for those, unfortunate few, who didn't like him at all, I feel sorry for them.

    It all is ultimately in the hands of God. He will make the final judgement on the life of Micheal Joseph Jackson and reward him accordingly. My prayer is that He has found favor with Michael and with his works here on earth.

    Let's continue to pray for his family and, especially, for his children.

    Peace & Blessings

    July 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  33. cosgrl

    boy she is whiter than he was the day he died. i wonder what blood tests would show?

    July 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  34. Karen

    Lets everyone say a prayer that his children are left alone from the paparazzi & Media , lets as a people not allow what happend to thier father due to the media happen to his kids that is the best gift we could give to a man who so quielty gave to others and helped millions through his generousity compassion and love. I hope all people saw what I saw today that this man was not what the tabloids portrayed him to be. He could not go anywhere without a disguise because of our love for him , so lets love his family from afar and let them enjoy thier childhood and lives in a way their father so yearned for himself. May god bless his three chidren with strength to carry them through these tought times and may they consumed with their farthers influnce to love laugh and have fun troughout their lives.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  35. Patricia..NV

    I watched the memorial today like millions of people, and broke my heart to see Paris say she loved her father...My two year old actually stood still while Paris spoke and asked me why she was crying..I simply told her that her daddy went to heaven and she missed him. Me and my daughter will pray for the MJ's children and wish them all the best.....God Bless

    July 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  36. toni

    for those who don't quite get it, music is the universal language. It surpasses all the jaded interpretations of life and the vile worldly opinions about behaviors we don't understand. Where is the empathy and the compassion this man desearves?? We drove him away with the cruel greed of those parents and judgements made by man. The only people he trusted were children because he knew them to be pure of heart. He was a child at heart but he was blessed with a gift he could not ignore. He was in so much pain he resorted to the need to rest with a clear mind and no anxiety. Those who were greedy gave him this freedom with sleeping drugs. A sleep where you have no dreams or anxiety. Unfortunately for us, he never woke up. Bless His soul. Such a giving soul.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  37. Jack

    MJ was talented, no doubt about it. I feel for his kids and his family for their loss, but for everyone else I would just like to say... "Get a Life!"

    July 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  38. SamG


    Farewell for MJ was touching, appropriate and even human, considering the hollywoodized cast.

    What I find appaling is that stars who are paying highest respects to MJ now that he is dead, would not have touched him with a stick just a few weeks ago while he was still alive. In life, he was a liability for a "star resume."

    One has to wonder how energetic MJ would have been had his fans and star-colleagues given him a "Come Back MJ!" concert immediately after the acquittal. I am now saying that MJ was a flawless person, but he was one of the few who could get up in the morning and say "I am the king [of pop]" and mean it. We should reflect on how focused was the Court of Public Opinion on mobbing MJ rather than giving him a chance in courts – and a chance (=moratorium on lies and trashing) for a comeback immediately thereafter. How did that song go... "Video killed a radio star...", something similar happened here: MJ was isolated and mobbed for much longer than a human could bear. If he felt he needed *anaesthesia* to "tune out" the stress and the pain, the burden on him was beyond humanly bearable.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  39. Michelle

    Paris Jackson is an amazing daughter. She really
    loves her dad and it shows.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:45 pm |
  40. allie65616

    Chicago, it is ignorance like yours that keep people from being able to resolve the issues of the world and to create a sense of tolerance. Since when is it a issue what color a child is, when before I always believed it was about making sure that children have homes and are loved and not left to their own guises of this cruel and horrible human condition called man. Granted I may not be A.A., but it does not mean I don't respect the culture or think any less of someone that has a different skin color than me. Intelligence outweighs any physical aspect of a human being, which last I checked we all were.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  41. Stephanie

    When Michael's beautiful daughter spoke, my heart sunk. Her words showed the world what Michael had given his children and that he was a "Father" who loved and cherished his children...Something he never had as a child or as an adult for that matter. Could Michael have ever said those word for his own father? I seriously doubt it. I hope they keep that monster(Joe Jackson) away from these beautiful children in the future.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  42. danielle

    i completely agree with this article. I never even thought of it, but to be honest, i needed to see them...hear them. although i do agree with MJ being unhappy about this....us, the fans, needed it.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  43. Josephine

    What absolutely beautiful and precious children MJ had. May God bless them, give them peace, comfort and protection, and hold them close in the palm of His hand. May God bless his family as well. It must be terribly hard for all of them to lose him.

    I thought the memorial was lovely. Although I grew up listening to MJ's music, I don't think I ever realized how expansive and far reaching his art was. I continue to be touched by his songs that are such a commentary on humanity and how it seemed he called us as well as himself to aspire to a better way.

    We're all human and we all struggle with our frailties. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Most of us don't face that struggle in front of millions, and we don't generally deal with those who covet everything we have.

    It's time to live and let live, be grateful for the good (and there was so very much), forgive any transgressions as we would hope to be forgiven, and wish MJ Godspeed.

    I never saw him in concert, but I watched him perform on tv as a little girl, danced to his music as a teen, was moved by his musical calls to better things as a woman. He is a part of our history, a tragic reminder of our mortality, and today we all said goodbye. T'is the passing of a legend.

    I hope you've found your Neverland on the other side of the grass, MJ. Thank you for the joy you gave us. Perhaps we'll all get to enjoy your wonderful art again someday in that place where we'll all be forever young...

    July 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  44. Allison

    Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
    Rest on, Rest on, Rest on. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!

    July 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  45. Christina Chapman

    My heart just broke and the tears flowed when I heard Paris. I have to agree that when she said "Daddy" I realized that Michael Jackson was just a person. To his children he is their father. God bless her and her brothers. I was amazed by the strength and love the Jackson family showed. They look like any other family that is bonding together in a very sad time. At least give them that. I think some of the comments are wrong about if Paris was told to speak up. I watched her and she turned to her Aunt and said something and then the family encouraged her to speak. To me Paris seemed very moved and wanted to say how much she loved her Dad.

    If there is one thing I hope for it is that the Prince, Paris, and Blanket will have the same "artist soul" that their father, Michael Jackson has. People will still say what they like but those of us who saw more than the public figure always in the media will keep his true message alive. Love always,, laugh often, and change what you can to make the world a better place. God Bless the Jackson Family and stay strong.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  46. Usha A, Delaware

    RIP Michael...you were THE best entertainer that walked the face of this earth..

    July 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  47. Le

    People should feel ashamed of themselves for continue to diss Michael. He has done so much for this world. What have you contribute...and who you think you are to judge him? He deserved all of the media's attention because during his short life he has impacted and changed millions lives for the better. I envy Michale's children because they have such an amazing human being as their father.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  48. Mary

    To all Media & Anderson Cooper:

    Lets please not exploit these poor children. They have lost the only
    parent they have ever known!
    The ony thing we should be trying to do is make this world a better
    place for all of our children. They are our future and they need to be A
    cherished and not exploited . The media have already overplayed
    the Paris hurtful expressions and words.
    These poor children are going to have a hard enough time
    dealing with his death and all the negativities they will see and hear.
    Above all, Michael was an excellent parent and no one can dispute that.
    Why not just talk about all the good he did in his hsort life?

    July 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  49. Shirley

    Eventually the children were going to be seen. In view of that I think this was the perfect venue to put them in the spotlight. If Obama's kids can go out for ice cream, so can Michael Jackson's kids. Obama and Michelle are keeping their children protected and Michael's mother will do the same for Michael's children.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  50. senait

    It’s neither the sperm nor the gene that makes one a father. It’s the unconditional love, nourishment, care, support, and everything Mr. Jackson gave to those kids that made him her “daddy”. What a brave little girl.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:37 pm |
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