(Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Will the new Michael Jackson documentary change people’s opinions of the late singer in the midst of the Me Too movement?
Over the weekend, a two-part HBO documentary titled Leaving Neverland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck recall their times with Michael Jackson, and allege horrific sexual acts with both children at the time.
The Michael Jackson estate is fighting back with a statement condemning the documentary which Variety described as “devastatingly powerful and convincing testimony that Michael Jackson was guilty of child sexual abuse.”
“Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family — that is the Jackson way,” the statement said. “But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.”
The Michael Jackson estate also released a statement in response to the backlash following the film’s debut.
“Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.
Tellingly, the director admitted at the Sundance Film Festival that he limited his interviews only to these accusers and their families. In doing so, he intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them. By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait.
For 20 years Wade Robson denied in court and in numerous interviews, including after Michael passed, that he was a victim and stated he was grateful for everything Michael had done for him. His family benefited from Michael’s kindness, generosity and career support up until Michael’s death. Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.
We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice. Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money – millions of dollars – dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael’s Estate. Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself, Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive.”
Jackson’s nephew Taj also spoke out against the documentary, and opening up a GoFundMe page to fund his own documentary about the singer.
The time has come to tell the true side of his story. Join me on my journey to unmask the truth about Michael Jackson. Not the truth certain media is selling you, but the truth as it actually happened. #proveninnocent #truthrunsmarathons #justiceforMJhttps://t.co/KV7a7jfmFc
— Taj Jackson (@tajjackson3) January 21, 2019
HBO has yet to set a release date for Leaving Neverland.