By Christian Holub
August 28, 2019 at 06:59 PM EDT
HBO (2); Mathieu Bitton/Netflix

Dave Chappelle has singlehandedly revived the debate about Leaving Neverland. In his new Netflix comedy special Sticks & Stones, which hit the streaming platform this week, the comedian has a long bit about the sexual assault allegations against Michael Jackson put forward by Wade Robson and James Safechuck in the four-hour HBO film. At one point Chappelle quips, “I don’t believe these motherf—ers,” then lists some reasons for his doubt. Now both Robson and Safechuck have fired back at Chappelle, while Jackson’s estate has enthusiastically agreed with the comedian.

“I’m heartbroken for all those children who look to see how they will be received when they finally find the courage to speak out about their sexual abuse,” Safechuck told TMZ. “I just want to reach out to other survivors and let them know that we can’t let this type of behavior silence us. Together we are strong.”

Robson told TMZ of Chappelle, “He can say whatever he wants. It reveals him, not us.”

John Branca, the co-executor of Jackson’s estate, also gave comment to TMZ. He forcefully agreed with Chappelle’s jokes.

“We agree with Dave Chappelle — these guys are damn liars,” Branca said. “After years of exploiting Michael’s generosity, they waited until he was gone and unable to defend himself before accusing him. They did this in secrecy. They did not do any independent investigation. They did not verify the stories. They didn’t talk to anyone because they did not want another side. This isn’t R. Kelly — there are no videos. This isn’t Harvey Weinstein, there aren’t multiple accusers.”

In his comedy routine, Chappelle says of Jackson, “I don’t think he did it. Even if he did do it… [shrugs] You know what I mean? I mean, it’s Michael Jackson! I know that more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives. But it wasn’t no goddamn Michael Jackson, was it?”

Chappelle also notes that actor Macaulay Culkin, who befriended Jackson as a child just as Robson and Safechuck did, has never accused the late singer of inappropriate behavior. Culkin testified in Jackson’s defense at his 2005 child molestation trial (as did Robson), and earlier this year told actor Michael Rosenbaum in a podcast interview that “I know it’s a big deal to everyone else, but to me it was a normal friendship.”

In her grade-B review for Leaving Neverland, EW TV critic Kristen Baldwin called the film “incredibly powerful and excruciating to watch,” but also noted, “for a documentary to be a true work of journalism, however, it is incumbent upon the filmmaker to solicit comments from the opposing side — in this case Jackson’s estate, his family, etc. — which the estate insists Reed did not do… And Neverland all but ignores Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against the Jackson estate — both of which were dismissed and are currently under appeal. Though Robson’s suit is mentioned in the film, neither he nor Safechuck are questioned about the ongoing litigation or their motives for pursuing it.”

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