A day after the controversial Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation, the estate of the singer-songwriter is fighting back against the film’s numerous child sex abuse claims. Per THR, the estate released a statement to denounce the film, calling it “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.” The estate also likened the alleged victims of the pop star’s abuse, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, as “two perjurers,” adding that Jackson “treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful” to them. “The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago,” the statement concludes, “and treats them as fact.”
In Leaving Neverland, director Dan Reed extensively interviewed Robson and Safechuck, who claim Jackson sexually abused them as children before they hit puberty. Robson previously testified under oath in Jackson’s 2005 trial that Jackson did not sexually abuse him, while Safechuck declined Jackson’s request at the time to testify. Hours after the film’s Sundance premiere, someone hacked into Leaving Neverland’s IMDb page, changing the title to Liar Liar 2: The Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck Story.
Update, January 28: Michael Jackson’s family has issued their own separate statement. It condemns the film and the media for resurfacing the allegations made in the doc despite Jackson’s acquittal, calling his accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, “liars.” They maintain that Jackson was innocent: “The facts don’t lie, people do.”
Michael Jackson is our brother and son. We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity. We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for.
People have always loved to go after Michael. He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.
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. 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 creators of this film were not interested in the truth. They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories.
But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100% innocent of these false allegations.
Update, January 29: The film’s director, Dan Reed, has responded to both the estate and the family’s complaints. He tells the Hollywood Reporter that both parties have a vested interest in protecting Jackson’s legacy since they stand to profit from it. “They have a very precious asset to protect,” Reed says. “Every time a song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching.’ It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve come out fighting in defense of their asset.” He also adds that the estate’s claim that his film is a “tabloid character assassination” is bogus. He says, “It is a four-hour documentary by an experienced documentarian with a long track record in investigation and telling complex stories and this is a complex story … A four-hour piece, is that a tabloid?”