Michael Jackson’s ex-wife Deborah Rowe has sued a woman who claimed in a television interview that Rowe didn’t want custody of the pop star’s children but was interested in getting money from the Jackson family.
Rowe filed a defamation and invasion-of-privacy lawsuit Thursday against Rebecca White of Florida. The suit seeks unspecified damages, but specifically targets any money that White may have been paid by a TV show for an interview that aired earlier this week.
The stories were based on White’s description of e-mails she said she exchanged with Rowe after Jackson’s death on June 25. Rowe, 50, denies she sent any recent e-mails to White.
The lawsuit also claims intentional infliction of emotional distress and states that Rowe has suffered “shame, mortification, hurt feelings and injury to her reputation” as a result of White’s interview.
An e-mail sent to a publicist for the show seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned. White couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.
The stories based on White’s interview remain active on the show’s Web site.
Rowe’s lawsuit states that she hasn’t communicated with White since Jackson’s death. The suit states that White interviewed her in 2008 for an MTV production and has since been “attempting to portray herself as a friend.”
In the new interview, White is described as a “close friend” who claimed Rowe had emphatically stated in an e-mail exchange that she didn’t want custody of Jackson’s three children.
Rowe is the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children.
White also told the show she thought Rowe was motivated by money, and that was the reason she was getting involved in a guardianship case that will decide who cares for the children, who range in age from 7 to 12.
A hearing on whether Jackson’s 79-year-old mother, Katherine Jackson, should continue to care for the children is scheduled Monday.
The lawsuit came two days after Rowe’s attorney, Eric M. George, demanded a retraction from White. The lawsuit states White hasn’t responded.
The suit rejects White’s contention that she’s a friend, stating that Rowe didn’t respond to two e-mails White sent her after Jackson’s death. Rowe also rejected an offer to have dinner with White when she apparently flew to Los Angeles for the show interview, according to the lawsuit.
The filing cites numerous other instances in which White has made outlandish claims to tabloid publications, some of which have been discredited. The lawsuit contends White was paid for those interviews, and suggests the show flew her to Los Angeles and may have paid for her interview.
Rowe has been quick to try to rebut or silence false reports. The lawsuit states that her attorneys got News of the World to remove a story based on assertions made by White. Earlier this week, Rowe’s attorney demanded a retraction from the New York Post after the paper ran a story claiming she had accepted a payout to drop her custody bid.
No settlement in the guardianship case has been announced or filed. Nor has Rowe formally petitioned for custody.
Rowe’s attorneys, however, have vouched for the authenticity of an interview she gave Los Angeles TV station KNBC in which she reportedly said she wanted custody and a restraining order against Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson.
In that case, George said the comments were reported accurately, but were a “snapshot” into Rowe’s thinking, and that no final decisions about a custody bid had been made.
No restraining order petition against Joe Jackson has been filed.