Jackson Kids May Not Know Who Their Mom Is

Michael Jackson's children might not know who their mother is, and his two oldest definitely don't think Debbie Rowe is, according to a former Jackson publicist.

Stuart Backerman, who held that post nearly two years, from 2002 to 2004 -- a tough couple years for Jackson that included child molestation allegations and the infamous baby-dangling incident -- told "Early Show" features reporter and weather anchor Dave Price Friday, "I'm not sure exactly who they think their mother is. That was never discussed [with me]. But I do know that they didn't think Debbie Rowe was their mother. They were told Debbie was either a friend or a relative."

Rowe is the birth mother of Jackson's two eldest kids: Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11. But Harvey Levin of the celebrity Web site TMZ.com has told CBS News, "Rowe wasn't the biological mother, and was implanted, and carried the babies to term."

A Los Angeles TV station reported Thursday that Rowe plans to seek custody of Prince Michael and Paris, and offered to take a DNA test to prove she is the biological mother. Her attorney, however, tells CBS News Rowe hasn't decided yet what she'll do.

A judge on Thursday delayed a guardianship hearing for Jackson's children at the request of attorneys for Rowe and the singer's mother. The new hearing date is July 13.

In his will, Jackson designates his mother, Katherine Jackson, to be the guardian of his children, with longtime friend and singing superstar Diana Ross named as the next choice if his mother is unable or unwilling to care for the children, reports CBS News correspondent Priya David.







Rowe gave up her parental rights in 2001 and was paid a multi-million dollar settlement, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. At the time of Jackson's molestation trial in 2005 Rowe tried to regain her rights, but was paid another settlement.

"As far as Michael was concerned, Debbie was sort of a surrogate mother and that she was not to be involved in the children's lives," says CBS News consultant J. Randy Taraborrelli.

Backerman told Price Friday a bitter custody battle is unlikely. "It's speculative," he said, "because I'm not exactly sure what Debbie is thinking now. But you have to understand that Debbie came to Michael's support on two critical occasions: one, after the (journalist) Martin Bashir (2003) interview, when she came to mitigate the concerns about Michael being around children, when she said Michael wouldn't harm any child. And that was tremendously helpful to Michael at that time. And then, secondly, during the (molestation) trial. A lot of people would say it was Debbie Rowe's testimony, and the way she testified, that saved Michael at that trial.

"So, I don't really think that Debbie Rowe wants to stir the pot with this custody issue. I think it was Michael's wish that his mother be the custodial parent, look after the children. And, because she cared for Michael very, very much and, as I said, came to his support on a number of occasions, I'd really be surprised if she stirred the pot here and created a real furor, because that furor would ultimately have an impact on the children, and I don't think she wants to see that happen."

CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom told Price Friday that, "as the biological mother (assuming Rowe is), she clearly is first in line under California law. She gets preference. She gets those children, unless Katherine Jackson or someone else can show she's an unfit mother. And that, Bloom said, is a very difficult legal standard to meet.

As for chances that Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, could get custody if he seeks it, Bloom said, "Joe Jackson has been accused of being a child abuser by Michael Jackson on videotape and by others over the years. And Debbie Rowe wants a restraining order to keep Joe Jackson potentially away from those children. These are the kinds of things a court would take into account in a custody battle. Everything would come into evidence. You can expect private investigators to be hired. All the life history of both sides to be looked into.

"This could be quite a battle."
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