By Nick Romano
January 26, 2019 at 11:08 AM EST
HBO
type
  • TV Show
Network
Genre

As the Sundance debut of Leaving Neverland continues to send ripples throughout the entertainment world, the Michael Jackson estate released a lengthy statement in response, calling the documentary “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.”

Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, hones in on child abuse allegations against the “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” singer, specifically from Wade Robson, now 36, and James Safechuck, now 40.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday where a large police presence formed in anticipation of protests, though only a few angry Jackson fans picketed the event. Among the attendees were reportedly black-ish creator Kenya Barris, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, and members of the Jackson estate.

“The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact,” the statement from the estate, obtained by EW, continues. “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.”

Years after Jackson’s death in 2009, Robson testified in 2013 that the singer sexually abused him as a child. In 2017, a judge dismissed the lawsuit against the Jackson estate, stating they weren’t liable for Robson’s exposure to Jackson, according to the Associated Press. The judge did not rule on Robson’s allegations themselves at the time.

As reported by The Los Angeles Times, Safechuck filed an amended complaint in 2016 that Jackson’s companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures enabled the King of Pop’s abuse of underage boys. He claimed Jackson engaged in sexual acts with him as a boy “hundreds” of times. A judge, too, dismissed Safechuck’s case in 2017.

“We are just trying to tell the story, to shine light on it,” Safechuck said during the Leaving Neverland premiere, as reported by Vanity Fair. “The same way, knowing Wade went through this, we can give other people the connection and comfort that we’ve received.”

HBO will debut Leaving Neverland as a two-parter this spring.

Read the estate’s statement in full below.

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 benefitted 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.

Related content:

type
  • TV Show
Genre
Premiere
  • 03/03/19
Performers
Network
Complete Coverage
Advertisement

Comments



EDIT POST