Los Angeles - Almost 10 years after his
sudden death, Michael Jackson’s legacy is under fresh scrutiny
in a documentary about alleged child sex abuse that has been met
with outrage by the singer’s family.
“Leaving Neverland” features two men now in their 30s and
40s who say they were befriended by Jackson and sexually abused
by him starting from when they were 7 and 10 years old. It will
be aired on US channel HBO on March 3 and 4 and on Britain’s
Channel 4 on March 6 and 7.
Jackson’s family has attacked the film and the “Thriller”
singer’s estate last week filed a lawsuit against HBO saying the
documentary breached a 1992 agreement that the cable channel
would not disparage him. “Michael Jackson is innocent. Period,”
the estate said in the lawsuit.
HBO said in a statement however it would go ahead with the
four-hour documentary and “allow everyone the opportunity to
assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
After the broadcast, HBO will air a conversation hosted by
Oprah Winfrey with the director and the two men in front of an
audience of sexual abuse survivors.
Jackson, who died in June 2009, was acquitted at a 2005
trial in California on charges of molesting a different, 13-
year-old boy at his Neverland ranch in California. In 1994, he
settled a sexual abuse lawsuit concerning another 13 year-old
Jackson’s death was met with an outpouring of grief
worldwide, a spike in record sales and new projects including a
Cirque du Soleil show that have made him the highest-earning
dead celebrity for the past six years, according to an annual
“This is the 10-year anniversary of my uncle’s death. We
should be mourning, but instead we are being bombarded with
lies,” the singer’s nephew, Taj Jackson, told Reuters.
“Leaving Neverland” focuses on Wade Robson and James
Safechuck who relate in graphic detail their experiences in the
early 1990s at Neverland and elsewhere. They say that, as boys,
they were in love with Jackson.
Robson, now 36, had testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial in the
singer’s defense. He and Safechuck said they saw their childhood
experiences in a new light after they both became fathers to
young sons of their own.
The singer’s brothers and nephew Taj, who spent years as a
child at Neverland, say the accusations are untrue, hurtful and
motivated by money. No one in the family was contacted for the
documentary, and they said none of them have seen it.
“I don’t care to see it, because I know my brother,” said
Jackie Jackson, 67, the oldest of the Jackson 5 brothers.
Robson, who met Jackson after winning a dance contest in
Australia at age 5, and Safechuck, who appeared with Jackson in
a Pepsi commercial in 1986, filed after the singer’s death
lawsuits seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from the
Jackson estate. Both cases alleging sexual misconduct were
dismissed but are being appealed.
Director Dan Reed says he wanted to make a film specifically
about the experiences of Robson and Safechuck. He noted that the
documentary includes interviews and denials the pop star gave
about sexual misconduct accusations when he was alive.
“I don’t know that the Jackson family has any direct
knowledge of what happened to Wade and James,” Reed told CBS
Television’s “This Morning” in an interview on Tuesday. “There
was no one else in the room.”
His family say they remember Jackson as a generous person
who gave millions to charities, loved to have fun and wanted to
unite people through his music.
“He was a family man. He loved kids around the world. He
wanted to be the best at his craft. His music lives on,” said
Jackie Jackson. - Nampa/Reuters