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Cousteau Family Clash Over Croc Hunter

9/20/2006 6:33 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

A very public clash of opinions has broken out between Jean-Michel Cousteau and his nephew Philippe over the late naturalist Steve Irwin -- and it's just the latest face-off in the continuing conflict amongst the scions of the life aquatic's first family.

One source who knows the family tells TMZ that Jean-Michel's remarks yesterday, when he slammed the beloved Irwin for his "very misleading" methods on the same day of his public memorial service, may have been an attempt on the part of Jean-Michel to steal PR thunder from his nephew and is not out of character for Jean-Michel. (Philippe was Irwin's partner on the fateful sea voyage that cost him his life.) Other sources say that the seemingly insensitive remarks are the result of "cultural differences" and that Jean-Michel may not have realized how inflammatory his words might be.

Jean-Michel, who is the eldest son of sea-explorer legend Jacques Cousteau, told reporters that he thought Irwin, in his "Crocodile Hunter" shows and beyond, would "interfere with nature, jump on animals, grab them...It appeals to a lot of people, but I think it's very misleading. You don't touch nature, you just look at it. And that's why I'm still alive." (Jean-Michel also said that he found the death "unfortunate" and said he had "a lot of respect" for Irwin.)


But not a fortnight ago, Philippe paid sincere homage to his producing partner and friend on "Larry King Live," saying he was amazed at "how dedicated Steve was and how much he really loved being out there...and also how much the people around him cared for him." Reps for Jean-Michel, Philippe, the Irwin family, and Discovery Channel did not comment on the spat, but this latest disagreement certainly isn't the first time various factions in the Cousteau family have sparred.

In 2001, Francine Cousteau, Jacques' second (and much younger) wife, took legal action to block Philippe, his sister Alexandra, and his mother Jan from using the name Cousteau Foundation, which was named after Philippe's father, also named Philippe, because it might confuse people who thought it was the Cousteau Society, which she administered. (The elder Philippe died in a seaplane crash in 1979.)

Philippe's relationship with his grandfather wasn't exactly the stuff of Hallmark cards, either. He told a scuba diving publication in 2003 that he saw Jacques, who died in 1997, only a few times a year, and added, "Unfortunately, he was not really a father figure to me." Jean-Michel, for his part, battled with his own father over a resort in Fiji that bore the Cousteau name; Jacques spent his later years trying to prevent his son from exploiting the Cousteau name for tourist profit.
69 COMMENTS

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1.

Jerilyn Bridges    

"Jean-Michel? Never heard of him. Maybe because he is a big NOTHING. Steve Irwin has changed the world and what our children are going to think of wildlife in the future"
Taunting animals indeed! Do any of you folks know what you're talking about? I hope you're not advocating the American approach of doping the creatures, raising them for their body parts(you knw that "sustainable use" crap), or simply allowing them to die as a testament to "natural selection".
Bottom line; that's pure BS! And as an American, I should Know!

2851 days ago
2.

Jerilyn Bridges    

And while I am at it, let me state that I find Jean Michel's treatment of animals more sadistic. It smacks of the patronizing behavior that Wealthy White Southern Americans feel that they can display torward anything not white!
We should get him together with his American counterpart: Trent Lott.

2851 days ago
3.

kathleen    

Jacques Cousteau was the best. I grew up watching his TV aquatic specials. They were magical. Part of the magic, was the fact that I could not understand HALF of what he said due to his THICK French accent. It is a shame that his family is being ripped apart due to differing viewpoints.

2921 days ago
4.

Lisa    

People really need to think before they speak. It doesn't matter if you approved of him or not, a man lost his life and a family lost a great husband and father way too soon. In the end that is all that matters.

ADMF

2921 days ago
5.

Wake up call for Jackie    

Jean-Michel should be ashamed of himself for making a statement like this about someone who can't defend themselves. I'm sure Jacques would be ashamed that his fine name was tainted by this conduct.

2921 days ago
6.

coco puff    

Jean-Michel was 100% correct. Irwin was a fake, phony, and a fraud. How stupid the Americans are, not to see this. This man used animals as props inorder to get higher TV ratings. As Jean-Michel said, " This is why I'm still alive ". Well, Steves dead, and I hope his actions will discourage copy cats. Unfortunately, there will most likely be more dumbasses like him.

2921 days ago
7.

Robert Glovan    

What else would you expect from a french family. The 'French' , in general , don't like the rest of the world. And it's apparent, from this public family spat, that they French don't even like themselves.

2921 days ago
8.

Myo    

Nice racist touch Robert Glovan

2921 days ago
9.

racer    

although harsh #4 has it right. Irwin did care about the animals but not as much as he cared about promoting himself and his ventures. He performed very little science and will be a footnote in the conservation movement history. He did serve a purpose in bringing a lot of people into the animal world, but his use of cheap thrills to do this attracted people that will just as easily lose interest now that he's gone. His family lost him and that's a shame, but he knew the dangers and willingly subjected himself and his family to the risk.

2921 days ago
10.

MICHAEL GERLITZKI SR    

MR Steve Irwin was a careing and loveing man to all people no matter what and how they did things in life my heart gos out to his Famile and friends i know how you feel i just loss a love one also two mouths ago my heart fall to the floor after i hear about MR Steve Irwin in loveing Memory from mMICHAEL GERLITZKI SR FROM THE USA and god bless to his Famile

2921 days ago
11.

Kim    

I tend to side with anyone but The French. Phillipe doesn't seem French--I side with him...

2921 days ago
12.

gary basoukas    

hey.. facts are facts........ i feel the most empathy for Irwins family and I mean no dis -respect.... but the bottom line is that Irwin has been taunting animals for years and was invading this animals natural space. His own government has been warning him for years. Normal Sea animals , outside of Great Whites, do not attack unless provoked or scared. You will never see the video of Irwins death because it will blatantly point out how he was frightening this animal.

I feel bad for his family and those he left behind. As for Steve Irwin... he got what he deserved.

2921 days ago
13.

Mimi    

There is more to conservation than just the science. If the public doesn't care about animals and their habitat, there will be no preservation of the natural world and it's inhabitants. I have worked in the environmental conservation field, for some 16 years, and I know that one must engage the public's attention for their to be any action.

Steve did that wonderfully, although I didn't always agree with his risk taking and manhandling of animals, it should be noted that he only did that with creatures who could give as much as they took, like crocs. He was careful and gentle with smaller creatures. He obviously loved them all, and he taught the public to share that appreciation. Children are the future of conservation, and they must become interested and appreciative.

I've met disdainful "experts" like Jean-Michel. They brook no pretense of popularizing animals for the public. It's their snobbish attitudes that turn off people and disengage the public interest, which leads to anti-conservation problems.

2921 days ago
14.

moretocome    

Jean-Michel, 100% correct. My deepest sympathy to Steve's family. What Steve did endangered himself and his film crew for nothing more than higher ratings. He sent kids the wrong message about respecting wildlife. You don’t show your respect by attacking wildlife for nothing more than entertainment purposes.

2921 days ago
15.

JUDY LEMUS    

IT'S REALLY ASHAME HOW THIS COUSTEAU THINK'S ,YOU JUST CAN'T SEE ANY GOOD IN WHAT STEVE IRWIN DID. I BELEIVE HE HONESTLY LOVED HIS JOB,FAMILY AND THE ANIMAL'S HE TRIED TO PROTECT. I THINK THAT MR. COUSTEAU IS JEALOUS OF STEVE IRWIN BECAUSE STEVE WAS HAND'S OWN IN HIS JOB,AND HE LOVED HIS FAMILY. IT MUST BE REALLY BE HARD BEING SO UNHAPPY,HATEFUL AND SO,SO JEALOUS ,GET A LIFE ..AT LEAST STEVE LOVED WHAT HE DID,HE LOVE LIFE TO THE END ,HE WAS A GREAT MAN WITH A BIG HEART. WHAT ABOUT YOU MR.COUSTEAU WHERE'S YOUR HEART.

2921 days ago
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