Michael Jackson has demonstrated some questionable judgment before, but some think he outdid himself Tuesday when he dangled his struggling nine-month-old son over his hotel balcony while staying in Berlin. In response to public outrage over the incident, Jackson has now issued an apology.
In an apparent attempt to connect with his fans gathered below, the singer had held the boy, using just one arm around the baby's waist, over the edge of the metal railing while greeting the crowd gathered four stories below. Fans cheered, but some also screamed, concerned he might drop the baby. The child, who had a towel over his head, was the singer's youngest child, Prince Michael II.
Jackson was in Berlin to accept an award Thursday for his philanthropic work on behalf of children, a lifetime Bambi entertainment award. But the incident was roundly condemned for potentially endangering his own child. British tabloid headings ranged from "Mad Bad Dad" (in the Daily Mirror) to "You Lunatic" (in the Sun), and Sweden's Expressen featured the line "Jackson plays with the baby's life." "The Berlin police should arrest this negligent father for reckless endangerment of his own child," Mirror editor Kevin O'Sullivan wrote in an editorial.
Jackson issued a statement late Tuesday via his lawyer calling the incident a "terrible mistake." "I offer no excuses for what happened," the statement read. "I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children."
Child abuse experts also criticized Jackson's behavior. "Considering Mr. Jackson started a charity to protect children, this was alarmingly irresponsible behavior with a child," Prevent Child Abuse America's Kevin Kirkpatrick told wire services. "Holding a child like that with what appeared to be one arm while leaning over a fourth-floor balcony window is pretty careless to say the least."
"I would tell anyone who saw an adult dangling a child out of a window to call a child protection hotline and the police," Alliance for Children's Rights' Janis Spire told wire services.
Berlin prosecutors told wire services that they are not investigating the incident, although an inquiry could be opened if any complaint against Jackson were filed. Stateside child welfare agencies stressed that they had no jurisdiction to intervene. They did, however, want to remind the public that if such an incident concerned them, they should call a child abuse hotline.
"If someone sees something they're concerned about, in their community, they should let the professionals assess the situation," said Stuart Riskin of the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services. "We assess each incident on a case-by-case basis. We want all children to be safe, but everything is governed by legal jurisdictions."
Prince Michael II — despite this recent exposure — remains somewhat of a mystery. His mother has not been identified, and he didn't appear in print or public until this summer, when Jackson brought him to Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas show at the end of July, when the child was approximately six months old. Jackson has two children with ex-wife Debbie Rowe — a five-year-old boy also named Prince Michael, and a four-year-old girl, Paris. Rowe has insisted that she is not the mother of Prince Michael II.
Jackson's trip to Germany took place during a break from his breach-of-contract trial, where he's being sued for $21 million for allegedly failing to show for two millennium concerts (see "Jackson Late To Court As His Lawyers Object To Photographer").