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Parenting Under Fire: Russell Simmons Joins Brian McKnight, Kirk Franklin and Other Celebrity Dads Being Called Out By Their Children on Social Media. Are Family Conversations In Front of Company Appropriate? Or Is This the Only Way to Get Their Attention?

Father’s Day is supposed to be a joyous occasion that celebrates the bond between a dad and his children, but that’s not always the case. This year, two prominent celebrity fathers found themselves trending online due to their estranged relationships with their kids.

Russell Simmons, 65, and Brian McKnight, 54, both made waves after posting their thoughts on Father’s Day, but it wasn’t for the right reasons. The music mogul and artist were respectively dragged for alleged mistreatment of their kids.

Simmons’ daughters – Ming Lee Simmons, 23, and Aoki Lee Simmons, 20 – as well as their mother, Kimora Lee Simmons, accused the Def Jam co-founder of years of emotional abuse and recent harassment and threats after Ming celebrated her mother for Father’s Day instead of her father on social media. Kimora and Simmons were married from 1998 to 2009.

Russell Simmons, Brian McKnight, and Kirk Franklin under fire after being called out by their children on social media. (Photos: zerojack/Star Max/GC Images; @brianmcknight/Instagram; @kirkfranklin/Instagram)

“I’m so sorry to have to do this,” she wrote. “But this man has been threatening my kids’ lives. I’m hearing so much more now. We won’t be bullied threatened or afraid.”

Ming and Aoki supported their mother’s claims by dropping purported documentation as well as statements of their own.

This is a first for Simmons, but McKnight’s been under fire for months by users on social media for allegedly prioritizing his stepkids and youngest son he shares with his current wife over his adult children.

They include Brian McKnight Jr., Niko McKnight, with his ex-wife, and Clyde McKnight and Briana McKnight, from previous relationships. All three have gone public with complaints about their dad in the past, but most of those currently dragging him are onlookers.

Related: Brian McKnight Faces Backlash After Naming Another Son Brian McKnight, After Being Accused of Disowning His ‘Older Black Children’

McKnight and Simmons may be the most recent celebrity dads to be accused of poor parenting but they aren’t the first. Gospel legend Kirk Franklin, Bad Boy mogul Diddy, and others have also been accused of being bad parents by either their children or former partners in recent years.

In 2021, Franklin’s son Kerrion leaked audio of the “Imagine Me” singer cursing him out and threatening to harm him. The father of four later apologized, which Kerrion deemed as an apology “to his fans,” although he forgave his father for his “past pain.”‘

Recently, Misa Hylton, the mother of Diddy’s son Justin, implied the Revolt founder was a bad influence on her son after he was arrested for DUI.

“I’m not Protecting no one anymore Just my son. And ALL the children. I love a come to Jesus Moment,” Hylton wrote in an Instagram story in early June. “The statement ‘a fish rots from the head down’ means that, in addition to being a major contributing factor in a family or organization’s success, leadership is also the root cause of its failure and demise. The Truth shall set you free.”

50 Cent is another celebrity dad who deals with ridicule and public scrutiny over his estranged relationship with his oldest son, Marquise Jackson. Last October, the 26-year-old slammed his father for making monthly child support payments of $6,700, totaling $81,000 a year. He believes the amount was too low for the lifestyle he wanted to live in New York City.

As the popular saying goes, “There are three sides to a story — your side, their side and the truth.”

Onlookers only have a very limited part of the story. All of the aforementioned celebrity dads have gone on record with their own versions of the stories, noting it is more complex than random social media observers understand. The truth is only the parties actually involved know the full picture.

Still, the public feuds have left some questioning whether social media is the right place to air out family grievances.

There is an old adage that says, “What goes on in this house stays in this house.” At one point, many seemed to subscribe to this school of thought. However, the once popular societal rule continues to be broken in the current social media climate.

Is that a good thing? It depends on who you ask.

According to a study about arguing on the internet by the University of Washington, there is a segment of the population that prefers to confront tough topics on the internet.

“Despite the fact that online spaces are often described as toxic and polarizing, what stood out to me is that people, surprisingly, want to have difficult conversations online,” said lead author Amanda Baughan, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

Is the preference to share with the masses based on a need for attention, validation or something more?

Life coach Peyush Bhatia told the India Times that sometimes it’s easier for people to share their pain with strangers online.

“We are witnessing families shrinking; there are very few people you can share your pain and joy with these days. Sharing online with strangers is easier,” Bhatia said. “With our busy lives shouting from public platforms sort of ensures you control your own narrative. This creates a new kind of intimacy in the virtual world.”

“All of that is good, but what we have to ask ourselves is whether perceptions can be controlled as much as we want and are we really prepared to deal with the consequences if posting about our private lives backfires.”

Louise Bloom is a practice specialist in Therapeutic Services at Relationships Australia. In a 2020 interview, she said when arguments escalate into taking private family issues public it can be very difficult to navigate.

“The argument can become heated, accelerating quickly to personal attacks which often includes trying to make you feel responsible or guilty for not responding the way someone wants you to,” Bloom shared.

Meanwhile, social media users are divided on the topic. Some think the call-outs by celebrity children are holding their parents accountable and can lead to healing, while others believe family matters should be resolved privately.

“They shouldn’t air their dirty laundry this way. Seriously….,” one IG user wrote under a post about the Simmons’ family feud. Another said, “Nobody wins when the family fueds.”

Under a separate post about the matter, one individual shared a lengthy response that put things into perspective in terms of children healing from their “suffering.”

“Y’all really have to chill on ‘this needs to be private’ that is exactly part of her suffering…all that silence (especially in our community) can be very toxic and harmful to the victim…silence MOSTLY benefits the abuser,” they wrote. “If she needs to heal in this way that’s her choice…no one gets to decide that but her…AIR THAT SH– OUT.”

One obvious reason not to air out their family laundry is the person being dragged can sue for defamation. As previously reported, McKnight’s daughter Briana sued her father in 2020 for accusing her of sleeping with a relative in a Youtube video from December 2019. The suit was settled earlier this year, with Brian Sr. agreeing to pay her $318,000.

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