While his role as the driving force behind the Jackson family's success has never been in question, father Joe Jackson's parenting especially with Michael has long been a subject of scrutiny and controversy. So it's all the more surprising that the driven patriarch is now working to forge a larger role for himself in the lives of Michael's three children.
In a partial interview released on ABC on July 10, taken from a longer interview to be aired on July 14, Joe says that both he and his estranged wife Katherine should take on permanent guardianship duties now that Michael has died. "Their grandmother Katherine and I should raise them," Joe said. "Yes, there's no one else who can do what we can do for them. We should keep them all together and make them happy. Feed them like they are supposed to be fed."
Previously there had not been a significant "we" in the children equation. As Michael requested in his will, Katherine has been granted legal temporary guardianship of Prince Michael, 12, Paris Michael Katherine, 11, and Prince Michael II (also known as Blanket), 7. Deborah Rowe, the biological mother of Prince Michael and Paris, who renounced her parental rights years ago, stated in a recent interview an interest in taking custody of all three children, and her lawyer is involved in the guardianship proceedings. A guardianship hearing set for July 13 in Los Angeles was postponed until July 20. Katherine's lawyer said in a statement that the delay would allow the opportunity to "privately and amicably" resolve the issue.
While still legally married, Katherine and Joe have long been separated, even residing in different states for the past few years. Michael was often vocal about his critique of Joe's parenting techniques, telling Oprah Winfrey in 1993 that there was "a lot of sadness" in his childhood. He revealed that his father would tease him about his pimples and even beat him. Jackson said his father was "very hard" and that he was "frightened" of him. In the same interview, he referred to his mother as "wonderful" and "perfection."
Jackson biographer and family friend Stacy Brown says Joe's re-emergence is not out of character. "No one can put reins on Joe," Brown says. "With a potential custody battle and knowing that he would likely be among the negatives discussed [in any court battle], Joe does what Joe wants."
Mark Lester, godparent to Michael's children, says he is not concerned by Joe's statements. "In recent years, Michael and Joe had repaired a lot of the emotional trauma that had gone on before," Lester tells TIME. He says that Joe has a different relationship with his grandchildren: "I've seen how Joe reacts with the kids; he's very loving with them."
In the ABC extract, Joe was asked if he felt that the Jackson children could go into show business. "I don't know," Joe responded. "I keep watching Paris. She wants to do something." He added that Blanket can "really dance."
Joe recently drew criticism when he plugged his fledgling recording-company project at appearances following Michael's death. The circumstances behind his interview with ABC have also raised eyebrows, as unconfirmed word has leaked out that Joe received $200,000 for the use of family films, which critics have decried as profiteering.