Nadya Suleman is fighting back against the media’s characterization of her and the claims of child neglect that put the controversial mother of 14 back in the headlines this week.
“We were set up,” Suleman told “Good Morning America” of photos leaked to entertainment website TMZ.com that purported to show the family living in “squalor.” “I think maybe me and my kids were set up.”
The photos were allegedly provided to TMZ by Suleman’s hairdresser, who, according to TMZ, says that Suleman kept her children locked in a room and forced her toddlers to use training toilets outside the home.
“She thought it was unacceptable that they’re, you know, half-naked, goin’ potty,” Suleman said, referring to her 3-year-old octuplets. “I mean, moms out there, come on.”
Another picture released by TMZ shows Suleman modeling her just-done hair — while in the background a chair is seen jammed under the doorknob of the kids’ room in what the hairdresser allegedly described to TMZ as an effort to prevent them from getting out.
“I didn’t want the kids to go in there at the time and one of my older kids jammed the chair up there so they wouldn’t keep opening and closing the door,” Suleman told “GMA.”
The photos and resulting media coverage prompted police and California child welfare officials to visit the family’s Southern California home Tuesday to investigate. Officials, however, said they did not find anything unusual and determined the children were safe.
“They didn’t discover any mistreatment so no further action was taken,” Cindy Knapp with the La Habra Police Department told ABC News.
Suleman, 37, became known as “Octomom” and gained celebrity fame after she gave birth to the eight babies in January 2009. She already had six other children, aged 2 to 7 at the time.
The single mother drew scorn for undergoing fertility treatments to have more children when she was unemployed and unable to take care of her existing family. Suleman’s hairdresser also allegedly told TMZ that she spent $520 on a Brazilian blow-out and haircut for herself, all while continuing to receive welfare checks.
“That’s not fair,” said Suleman, who claims the $520 was spent on 15 haircuts in total, not just the single haircut the hairdresser claimed.
“It’s almost over. This is our last month on help,” she said of the $4,000 to $5,000 per month she receives in public assistance. “I am making money…I have jobs.”
Suleman has also been criticized for her willingness to keep her kids and herself in the public eye, including a stint on the “Dr. Drew” show and a recent semi-nude spread she did for a British magazine.
“I’ve been using the media to pay the bills,” she said. ”Any offer now is to take care of my kids. I had to strip myself of pride.”
As for the public image of her as an unfit mother – emphasized again by the leaked photos for her graffiti-covered home — Suleman says she wants to change that image.
“I hate ‘Octomom,’” she said. “I wanna’ take a freaking sledgehammer and crack her in half. That is some freak that they created in the media. I need it to be done.”