Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fatherhood: Michael Jackson

Just as there are print publications like the ones you see at the checkout stand in the grocery store that carry nothing but sensational and largely speculative “news”, there’s a tawdry underbelly to the internet, where people say crappy things about people.

The website TMZ, which broke the story of Michael Jackson’s death, is running a story saying Jackson is not the biological father of his three children. Well, there’s a scoop! Anybody who’s ever seen pictures of the Jackson children knows there’s not a hint of biraciality in them.

Finding out that Michael is not the biological father is like finding out that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were on steroids. Really? You don’t say. Suddenly, in what should have been the waning days of their baseball careers, they put on a huge amount of muscle bulk and started knocking balls out of the park every day - and baseball fans everywhere were in benign denial.

The anonymous were quick to make snarky comments about the TMZ story saying Jackson isn’t the biological father. Well, I have news for them. Whether or not he is the biological father is not relevant one bit: not at law, and not in real life. He brought those children into the world and he is their father, by any definition except biological, and that’s not relevant.

The biology of the issue of paternity does not make one whit of difference to the millions of men around the world who are step-fathers. I’m one of them. And although he may have been connected to his children in a different way than I am to mine, Michael Jackson is every bit their father. He obviously loves them, supports them, and watches out for them, the way any decent father would.

Just a few years ago, when his hometown, Gary, Indiana had a ceremony to give him the key to the city, Michael loaded his kids in the car and took them down to 2300 Jackson Street (named after the President, not the pop star) in the heart of town, to show them the house where he was raised - something any father would do. But most dads don’t have limos and entourages to deal with.

Because my step-son is tall and fair-skinned, people I’ve only known a few years comment “well it’s easy to see where he gets his height from” when they meet or see a picture of my step-son. I’m six-foot-three with fair skin and they just assume that I’m the biological father. And of my step-daughter, they say “she looks just like her mom”, with absolutely no implication about my involvement in the biology.

We tend to judge people by their actions, and not their intentions. And when we first got married, my wife’s parents and siblings judged me largely on how I treated her children. Being a father is not about sex or biology. Anybody can father a child, and lord knows there’s plenty of that going around, and not just in Hollywood. Now, my wife’s family and those two wonderful young adults - my step-children - know that I’m their father, and that I will be there for them and “have their back” to my last day on earth.

So make fun of Michael Jackson and ridicule his often-unusual behavior if you want. But he IS the father of those children. Even the most sarcastic of his detractors has to admit that Michael Jackson was a gentle soul who loved his children and hated no one.


  1. Biology matters in this case, because Michael left a fortune in trust for his children and assigned their custody to his elderly mother, with Diana Ross as the survivor guardian, leaving his ex-wife (the children's biological mother) out in the cold. Courts tend to side with birth mothers, even when they have previously surrendered their parental rights. If Michael's mother is not the children's biological grandmother, her chances of keeping custody are diminished, and Miss Ross is unlikely to fare any better.

  2. Jill, he didn't "leave his ex-wife out in the cold". Court records have established unambiguously that he TWICE made huge payments to Ms. Rowe, and in accepting the second payment, she agreed to termination of all parental rights. In other words- twice, she shook him down; twice, she was paid. What she's doing now amounts in my eyes to a THIRD attempted shakedown, and she'll just be spending the money she got in the other two "settlements" to make more lawyers wealthy.