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Madonna: Adoption criticism a blessing

Madonna says in a “Today” show interview that she wasn’t prepared for the media storm that followed her adoption of a 1-year-old African boy from Malawi but says the criticism is a blessing in disguise.
/ Source: contributor

Despite her provocative reputation, Madonna says she wasn’t prepared for the media storm that followed her adoption of a 1-year-old African boy from Malawi.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline NBC,” the 48-year-old pop star told NBC News’ Meredith Vieira that the criticism from both the public and civil-rights groups took her by surprise.

“When I had my daughter, people accused me that I did it as a publicity stunt. I expected that. I didn’t expect to be accused of kidnapping, or of doing something illegal. I didn’t expect to be demonized.”

Critics have accused Madonna of using her star status and wealth to circumvent Malawi's adoption laws in order to get David.

The public flaying was depressing, Madonna told Vieira, and also a waste of news space. “With all the chaos, pain and suffering in the world, the fact that my adoption of a child who was living in an orphanage was the number one story for a week in the world. To me, that says more about our inability to focus on the real problems.”

The pop star went to Africa as part of a documentary on the Malawi orphans. It was at one of the orphanages that a baby named David caught her eye. The boy Madonna now describes as flirtatious, hysterically funny and possessing a terrible temper lost his mother to AIDs, and three of his siblings also died. He also had a 104-degree temperature and pneumonia.

If Madonna had not received permission to take David to a hospital, she says he would not have survived, She said she also met with David’s father, and offered to help his family financially if David returned to his village. According to Madonna, David’s father said “No.”

Vieira says that NBC spoke with David’s father, who confirmed Madonna’s story. For her part, Madonna agreed that she would take David back to Malawi at least every three to four years.

Developing a personalityThree weeks have passed since David came to London to live with Madonna, her children Lourdes, 9 and Rocco, 6, and husband film director Guy Ritchie. According to his adoptive mother, he’s acting like a typical child his age. “He’s developed attachments. Now he throws tantrums. Now he doesn’t want food, or he wants food.”

But the criticism hasn’t stopped. “I have people say to me on the streets — ‘Why did you adopt a black child?’ ” Madonna says she doesn’t dignify them with an answer.

In her career, her music and her life, Madonna said that she will continue to provoke. However, she’s learned that being provocative just to provoke is a waste, and that she now has messages she wants to share.

In keeping with this philosophy, Madonna says all the attention to David’s adoption is actually a blessing. “Now people know about Malawi. Now people know about the orphans there. And now David’s home.”

NBC will broadcast a two-hour concert special of Madonna — minus a controversial crucifix scene — on Nov. 22. “Madonna:  The Confessions Tour, Live From London” was taped this summer at Wembley Stadium in London.

Madonna’s interview with NBC’s Meredith Vieira continues on “Dateline Wednesday,” 10 p.m. tonight. Madonna talks more about life as a mother, the process of adoption in Malawi, her career and the difference she still hopes to make.