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. Wendy

    This is still unbelievable to me, even after watching the memorial service. I pray for the whole family, especially michael's kids. People make such a big deal about whether the kids are biologically his...it doesn't matter! He raised those kids, so they ARE his kids. Keep them in prayer.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  2. Abeeha

    I am also 11 and hope she feels better.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  3. holly

    Being a Daddy's girl myself who lost her Daddy 2 years ago today, my heart gushed when I heard Paris. She was sincere and sweet, and most importantly she demonstrated to the world what real guy her father was as only she would know. I hope the world sees this now. Bless her, her brothers and all the Jacksons.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  4. Kimberly Blake

    I'm sitting here watching cnn and as they show highlights of Michael
    Jackson's funeral, I can't help but to let tears roll down my face cause I can't believe that Michael Jackson is dead. R.I.P. Kim

    July 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  5. Jack

    Its up to you guys as responsible media to control the exposure of MJ's kids and commit to certain standards of decency in this. Simply covering the fact that now that the children have been seen only reminds the piranhas that food is available. The public was just fine without seeing endless photos of MJs children, there is no reason why every photographer shouldn't consider them as children and respect their personal space.

    Merely commenting on a bad state of celebrity life isn't the same as practicing social responsibility. You should in the same breath say that its not a good practice to harass his children especially in the wake of the death of their father, no matter how interesting the story might be. Putting TMZ and other paparazzi outlets on a leash through public shame by reputable media outlets is essential to media ethics, and essential to your survival without facing backlash.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  6. smelly

    Paris, i'm sure he is... God bless u... No... He blesses u... Keep stronger dear... keep stronger...

    July 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  7. Gayle

    Since Michael's death we have heard many in the media focus on a lot of negative that was in the news throughout his life. In the process, I think it was forgotten that someone died! The feelings when family dies....when somebody's son, brother, and father dies!

    This family was clearly hurting today, but Paris said it all!

    May God bless this family, especially the kids!

    July 7, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  8. Lampe

    Look I Love Michael as much as the next person, but let's get one thing straight. Michael was found not guilty in one case. There were still two other cases, which never went to court because of financial settlements. does that make him guilty, I don't know, and neither does anyone else but Michael and his accussers. Now, as far as his children having to listen to news reports about these issues, all I can say is that sooner or later these cases are going to have to be addressed by someone in the family. These three wonderful children are going to read books, and look on the internet for stories about their father.I think it would be best if someone in the family at the right time told them something.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  9. jimmy

    Does anybody know where the kids were when Michael died in the house?

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

    Since Michael Jackson has been laid to rest. It was good that we were able to be a part of this. Now we should focus on other big pictures that face us in this nation and try not to share negative thoughts. Too much has happened in the past.

    I was enjoying how good CNN has been in allowing us to be a part of this event until I log in and am now reading all the other negatives surrounding Michael Jackson. He was laid to rest today so we should move on and move on to making our own lives a difference in this Nation. We should now pray for the leader of our country and the nation and seek to in our own hearts identify how we can make a difference to society and this nation.

    PLEASE I am weary of any negative reports now.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  11. Heather

    As someone whose mom died when I was the same age Paris is now, her comments today did not strike me as authentic. When my mom died it was like a hurricane blew through and swept away the known world. These children clinging to straws in the wind right now, and vulnerable to suggestions from anyone offering them shelter. Considering how Michael was treated as a child - and the unkind things his own brothers have said (defending the abusive father) - that last scene of the memorial had an unpleasant odor for me. I HOPE I am wrong.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  12. Kristin

    To those of you posting about this article directed at Cooper, look closely at the top and you will see the author of this is Tom Foreman from the AC 360 newsroom team.

    Who knows what he would've wanted, but clearly he wanted the children hidden from view. Their lives have already changed enough, I wish them all peace in this difficult time.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  13. Sheila

    This was the most emotional part of the whole memorial! i love that she spoke and you can feel her pain of losing her "daddy". Michael Jackson is the most amazing entertainer ever. i am 20 years old and became a huge fan rather young because my mom was into him and now my brother who is only 8 loves him as well. no one else could ever do that

    July 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  14. Laverne of Hinesville, GA

    Your daddy was the greatest entertainer of all times and you remember him as a great man that made a huge difference in so many peoples lives. We are praying for your strength. God Bless and Keep You.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  15. Annie

    I don't think anyone paraded the kids out there. If you watch, she turns to a few of the people standing around her and whoever the man was that was to her right (sort of) almost looks like he is questioning whether to let her talk. He looks taken aback, no one was prepared to have to lower the microphone....etc. There was a lack of knowledge to me on full display. I didn't hear Janet tell her to speak up and if she did it was just a basic coaching not an order. The poor kid has barely been seen in public much less had to speak in public and she was probably just reminding her to speak louder. People are so judgemental. Jeez.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  16. Kat

    They are and always will be his children. Must they hide behind masks their entire lives? Why can't they be taught as children to deal with the issues that come from a famous father so they can learn the coping mechanisms their father never learned and hopefully live to see a happy and secure adulthood?

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

    Micheal jackson u rock ure the best and i feel so sorry for those kids and for those people out there watch youtube to find out y micheal jackson did all that stuff kK. and now i know y MJ was never seen with his father.. wow i wouldnt ever want to suffer like MJ. and i would have hated a father like that. AND to MJ's kids I'll pray for u

    Living with MJ

    July 7, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  18. "We are the World"

    The European Artist stepped up to the plate to record ...for SIR Bob Geldof and Midge Uredid and Band Aid:) "We are the World"...
    Was a large group of artist from the U.S. I think 45. So yes, MJ did it...and who can forget.

    Thank you Michael for tearing down those barriers and fighting.
    I Voted for Obama this year...and I grew up with Michael.


    July 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  19. Monica

    It's a sin that people could speak so negatively about such a humanitarian who saved so many lives. Shame on you!

    July 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  20. Vicki

    I grew up with Micheal. He and I are the same age.It doesn't matter who the parents are of those children . They are his children. Any one who loves children will respect there right to grow up with out ever having to wear a mask again.They did not choose to have the celebrity. I personally will not buy any paper that prints their picture and I can see they they are being harmed by the press. I really want to thank the Jackson family for providing us his fans a way to say good bye. It was very respectful. How any times I sang to my children It is as easy a b c 123 . Just hearing I was not alone has gotten me through so much in my own life. As I have told everyone in my life what ever happened is between Micheal and his maker. We learned from Michael we can not judge anyone. I am going to miss you. RIP w/ love

    July 7, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  21. Monica

    I was just thinking how impressed I am that CNN left out all negativity re: MJ. Please do not ruin the day!

    It was an amazing memorial.. and like Brooke said.. Michael is perched and looking down on us all.... and is smiling 🙂

    July 7, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  22. jackie

    I am a 65 year old grandmother, who grew up with Michael Jackson and am very proud to have had him in my life. My children loved him without any doubt. We in Hawaii all hold a special place in our hearts for Elvis Presley, and now he shares that place with Michael Jackson forever. Thank you Michael, for the good times and sad we'll love you till the day we die".Rest In Peace," now yound man......................

    July 7, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  23. dru

    To one of the greatest entertainers of all times MJ. You will be missed.

    July 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  24. Ana

    I was moved by Paris’ sensitivity...much like her father’s. My fear now is that these children will come accross bitter and jaded people who find pleasure in causing pain to others.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm |
  25. Zo

    It was great for Michael's daughter to speak out. I think Michael would have wanted it. It was an emotional moment for everyone and most especially it demonstrated the side of M.J that everyone, especially his critics needed to see-he was a muched loved father.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm |
  26. Steve in Toronto, Canada

    It was so nice to finally get a nice look at the kids together! MJ Im sure understands that this really is the beginning of a new chapter for these kids and they look strong enough to handle it. I pray they wont be bombarded too much, but it is how it is in this business. Amazing service for kids to sit through about their daddy. I am glad they were there to participate, and I take my hat off to the entire Jackson family for coming together to unite in this occassion and provide themselves and the world with a little closure in our planets great loss. God bless Michael and more so his lovely babies. Kids....live his legacy and do as your father did to so may others, and enjoy life, its short, so do what you can and do it well everyday. Your father will be so proud. God bless you and your family. From just a fan in Toronto Canada who is 33 now and remembers opening up his BAD album as a kid at Christmas and listening to it all day long, and then some. I was a young boy, but still feel his magic at 33. Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.
    Steve In Toronto.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm |
  27. Michelle

    Michael became "Daddy" when Paris spoke. I was not left with the impression that she was forced to speak. It came from her heart. I love you Anderson but I think you took the wrong approach on this one. It simply was just a little girl telling the world what she needed to say...just let it be.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  28. Shelly

    Isn't it sad that it takes a simple "daddy" to make the world realize that Micheal Jackson was a human being? Not Wacko-Jacko just "daddy" to that precious little girl, who is a stunning beauty.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  29. Dee

    I saw portions of the memorial this evening. In light of the media frenzy over the past few days I was pleasantly surprised that the affair was tasteful and very well done. Not easy in Hollywood with the sudden death of a very public figure. I wish the children the best. My heart broke when Paris spoke. Very obvious she loved him and that he loved his children. I hope they are cared for and loved in the days and months ahead. I also hope the media will give them the privacy and respect they deserve. Whatever anyone thinks of Michael Jackson let his children remember him as he was with them.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:53 pm |
  30. Heather

    Sadly, the Jackson family seemed to me to be cashing in on their dear brother's (and son's, in Joe's case) death. I didn't need to see Jermaine mangling the words of Michael's favorite song ("Smile"). And putting the kids on display for the first time EVER is a little too much like what that family did to little Michael - cashing in a young child's charm without much concern about the young child him/herself. Very sad. For two weeks I've imagined Michael smiling down on the proceedings. Right up til that last few minutes of the service. Then, I think, he cried.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:52 pm |
  31. Watcher09

    "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."

    Well he was long before coined the "King of Pop" but I'd settle for "The Greatest Entertainer that ever Lived"

    July 7, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  32. Tracey

    I must admit, I was unsure if the children would even be there, would be veiled or not. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them with their grandmother and their faces were not covered. I noticed Paris several times jump up quickly to applaud what was being said about her father. I thought I noticed her ask to speak, but wasn't sure. But I am sure that when she broke down the first time and everyone moved in to console her, she held onto that mike and was adament to get her last sentence in. Kudos to her to want to justify her relationship with her daddy. I only hope these children will be left alone for quite some time to be able to adjust to this new life they will have.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm |
  33. Jack

    Its up to you guys as the media to control their exposure and commit to certain standards of decency in this. Simply covering the fact that now that the children have been seen only reminds the piranhas that food is available. The public was just fine without seeing endless photos of MJ children, there is no reason why every photographer shouldn't consider them as children and respect their personal space. Merely commenting on a bad state of public life isn't the same as practicing social responsibility. You should in the same breath say that its not a good practice to harass his children especially in the wake of the death of their father, no matter how interesting the story might be. Putting TMZ and other paparazzi outlets on a leash through public shame by reputable media outlets is essential to media ethics, and essential to your survival without facing backlash.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm |
  34. Lee

    Can anyone still spell? Or use words appropriately. The mishmash of what passes for standard English these days is what has me griefstricken.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm |
  35. cali gal

    It's an interesting point that Mr. Cooper brings to the table. I am personally glad that Paris was given the opportunity to speak her voice...the best things to heal a loss are time and the ability to express oneself about the love and/or any anger that may have resulted from said loss.

    I think Paris' brave comments really hit home the fact that no matter what you may think about Michael Jackson (and personally, I don't believe he behaved improperly with children...he's was odd, but that doesn't make him a criminal) he was first and foremost a father to his children.

    Rest in peace, Michael...you deserve it.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm |
  36. Mae

    God Bless Michael Jackson's parents and family. I regret that I never got a chance to see him in person. May he rest in peace.

    On a different note, Paris, Prince and Blanket are beautiful and God Bless them. My question is, if Michael is not their biological father and the dermatologist is, why not release the children back to their biological parents and work out a trust to the children? I believe eventually Debbie Rowe will get her children back with a bigger price tag attached if the family does not intervene for Michael's generosity.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm |
  37. Kim

    I am tired of hearing about his death.
    I don't think much will be bright for his kids, since being in the spotlight always brings drugs, depression and early death.
    Sad but true.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  38. Varada from Plano, TX

    Totally agree. I'm sure Michael Jackson would have hated to see his children being exposed to the public. I hope they get to live normal lives as much as possible, though its going to be so tough now with their father gone. Paparazzi/ People please save them.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  39. Cedric

    I can't help but think that this family sees dollar signs when they see MJ's kids. Whoever gets the kids, gets the money. So of course, they are falling all over themselves to appear supportive and lovey-dovey. And the family is using the occasion of MJ's death to rewrite history and to make MJ more profitable in death than he was in life. It's all about the money and fame, not about Michael, once again. Just like the MLK family feuds. $$$

    July 7, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  40. Rosemary Spraggins

    It is so funny how mean and uncaring people can be when they are defending their professional position. However, it is necessary for even reporters to recognize when a move of God go forth. These children grief and love for their father, their grandmother, and her family! Little Paris held her grandmother or blankets hand during the entire service!
    These children need to be kept out of the limelight and allowed to grow-up!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  41. Pat

    It was sad seeing the kids today and knowing that some of MJ's past choices may now end up causing them more upset. Why couldn't he have maintained primary custody and granted Debbie Rowe visitation. Knowing how close he was to his own Mom, how could he deny them the love of theirs. Now they have neither a mother or a father and that is tragic. The fact that his will was dated and vague also causes me concern because the vultures that surrounded MJ in life will most certainly be there in death.

    My hope is that Janet takes custody of all three and raises them out of the limelight. She is married, young, has no children of her own and, most importantly, she has her own fame and fortune so she will never need to "use" the kids for those purposes. She could become their Priscilla Presley (who saved Graceland for Lisa Marie) by ensuring the children are taken care of financially while also allowing them to grow up normally. I don't believe any of the other Jacksons could offer the children that. They have all ridden MJ's coattails forever and I fear they will do the same thing with his children. Janet is the only one that can offer the children stability and unconditional love. She doesn't need them for a photo op (a la their grandfather) or for money (a la the uncles and aunts and, many predict, their Mom) and can keep the three of them together. Please Janet. Don't give up on them. Do it for Michael!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  42. Angelica Han

    I wish the public that stands by and watches the paparazzi traumatize these kids will step up and show their support for the children by physically blocking the paps from getting their shots. What a gesture of loyatly that would be towards MJ and his kids. MJ's own fans protecting these kids childhood the way MJ's childhood should have been protected.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  43. VicW

    I find it grotesque that Michael Jackson's daughter was paraded in front of millions of strangers in her time of grief. Shame on the family and shame on the media for allowing her sadness to be the object of public scrutiny. She, and her brothers, are but children and should be protected at all costs – no matter who their father is or was.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  44. roberto

    Greed Anderson – MJ worked so hard to keep his children out of the camera lense so they could have some sense of normalcy and privacy – as soon as I saw the children at the memorial, I knew that the Jackson family, albeit so comfortable with cameras, forgot what MJ tried to do...protect his children.
    These kids dont have a chance with the Jackson name......fame and fortune isnt worth it.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  45. Elizabeth Snowberger

    FIrst of all to all of you questioning whether MJ is the father, the kids look like him, especially Prince Michael!! Secondly, who cares what anyone thinks, those kids knew him as Daddy and they are grieving!! God please let them be!!! And to all of the people that continue to bring up the accusations-He was found NOT GUILTY!! Get over it and remember him for the true musical genius he was!!
    RIP Michael!!

    July 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  46. Gene

    MJ's passing and memorial service consumed my wife's heartfelt sympathy but not mine until today. Amazed at the recent gleaming physical similarities between Paris and our daughter; when I saw her speak today she broke my heart and made me cry too. Suddenly MJ was humanized by the gentle voice of someone who loved him more than we ever imagined.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:33 pm |
  47. David A. Weitzner

    What would you have the Jackson family do? Keep the children under wraps at their father's memorial service. Not allow them to participate or to offer their own statements of love for their father. As to going out for ice cream or anything else that smacks of a normal life, I believe they will have that opportunity if they want it. The answer in the short term must be addressed by their grandmother and the role she sets for them. Yes, they are Michael's children, but they are not their father. I honestly believe that they can achieve balanced lives if they so choose. The choice will have to be theirs and we should allow them the time and space to make that decision.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  48. Misty

    My heart goes out to MJ's children. It is quite abvious from Paris' speach today that MJ was a wonderfull father. It was also apparant that the children are close with MJ's family, especially Janet ( Paris seemed to turn to her a couple of times for support) I hope the the adults in these childrens lives can help the children put there lives back together and move forward, without a messy court battle. Just do whats best for the kids. God bless you Paris, Prince and Blanket.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  49. jasmine

    It's amazing to see that after jackson's death he is being treated as a human being. When all along this is the way he should have been respected by the media. I dont believe in flowers after death I believe flowers before death. In other words if the media couldn't say anything positive before don't say it now, if you weren't there for Michael. To all the haters who can't let the king of pop live on deal with it because he is a human being and will forever be the King of pop.

    R.I.P Michael Jackson you will never be replaced

    July 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  50. kalayma

    By seeing Paris , i reliazed the Michael is the best father for the three children. Michael know how to protect his children HEART and SOUL. Come on.... the guardian should understand and respect what Michael want for his children. What he want is not the lime light for his children.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:28 pm |
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