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Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the subjects of HBO’s upcoming documentary Leaving Neverland, sat down with CBS This Morning‘s Gayle King to elaborate on the alleged childhood abuse they claim to have suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson. The two men recount their experiences with the late pop superstar in the four-hour film, which is set to premiere Sunday and will be shown in two parts, with the second part to air on Monday.
In Robson and Safechuck’s joint interview with King for CBS This Morning — which aired in its entirety Thursday morning — King asked the pair if their respective relationships with Jackson ever felt “wrong.”
“No, I didn’t think any of that. Again, the feeling was, out of all the kids in the world, here I am and Michael chose me. And he also told me that ‘I’ve never done this to anybody else,'” Robson said. “So that was more to [thinking], ‘Wow, he chooses me, and he loves me.'”
Added Safechuck, “It’s all the same thing he did to me as well.”
Robson, now 36, went on to tell King that he thinks “there are many other boys that Michael abused,” adding that he finds it difficult to believe that Jackson “had boys around for any other reason than to sexually abuse them.”
King also told Robson and Safechuck that the Jackson family has said they don’t believe the men would be bold enough to publicly accuse Jackson of sexual abuse if the pop superstar — who died in 2009 at age 50 — were still alive today.
“It’s hard to speculate as to what would be the situation if Michael was still alive,” Robson said. “I guess if I could speculate, if Michael was still alive and all the rest of the details of my life were the same — meaning I became a father, right? And I went through the same process that I did of this realization and going through the healing process, my belief is that we’d still be doing this. Of course, some details may be different.”
Safechuck then admitted that he might have never come clean about his experiences with Jackson had the musician not died from a propofol overdose nearly a decade ago. “I don’t know. Would I have taken this to my grave? I certainly planned on doing that. I had no expectations of ever telling anyone,” he explained. “If he was still alive, maybe I would have taken it to my grave.”
When King asked when “alarm bells” started to go off for them, Robson said when he was 12 years old (Robson alleges the abuse went on from when he was 7 to 14 years old). “I remember feeling around 12, starting to be a little more uncomfortable about that. And sometimes maybe trying to change the subject or, you know, distract,” he said. “But then having a fear that if I don’t do this, I’m already feeling like I’m not a favorite of Michael’s anymore. And if I don’t do this, what’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen to our friendship?” Robson said he was worried about the friendship going away because sexuality became a “safe zone.” He added that it was “the grounding source of the relationship because that’s what it became so quickly.”
Robson recounted his first stay at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. While his family had plans to leave Jackson’s expansive home estate for a vacation to the Grand Canyon, they allowed Robson to stay with Jackson alone for a week at Neverland Ranch because the singer “sobbed” for him not to go.
“It was just Michael and I in Neverland for the next week. My parents allowed that,” he said. “Within either the first or second night of Michael and I being alone at Neverland, the night started changing. One of the ways I remember it starting is Michael sort of staring to touch my legs and touch my crotch over my pants.”
Continued Robson, “It progressed to him performing oral sex on me, him showing me how to perform oral sex on him. … The couple days prior to the abuse starting, he started touching me just in the sense of like [his] hand on my leg, lots of hugs, kissing my forehead, rubbing my forehead. So there had been this development of physical closeness that was happening already, that felt like a father. It just felt amazing.”
“As Michael started doing these sexual acts, he started talking to me about, ‘God brought us together. We love each other and this is how we show each other our love,'” Robson recalled, while Safechuck nodded in agreement.
“He introduced me to masturbation, and he said I taught him how to French kiss. And then it moves on to oral sex,” Safechuck claimed of his own experiences with Jackson, adding that, at the time, it didn’t feel particularly wrong. “It’s in the context of a loving, close relationship. There’s no alarm bells going off in your head or any thoughts like that. Really, it’s just I love this person and we’re trying to make each other happy.”
Robson also explained why he denied he had been sexually abused by Jackson on the stand then later recounted his testimony in court. “Michael’s training of me to testify began the first night that he started abusing me, in the sense that you know, that right away, after the first kind of experience of sexual abuse, he started telling me that if anybody else ever finds out, we’ll both go to jail, both of our lives would be over,” he said.
Robson said that Jackson’s staff were “everywhere” to ensure that “the room I was in with him was secure and closed off and private so he could do anything he wanted with me.” When King asked if Jackson’s employees were aware of the alleged abuse, Robson replied, “It’s hard for me to believe that people didn’t know or at least people had to wonder what is going on. Something weird is going on here.”
When King brought up the fact that both Safechuck’s and Robson’s mothers appear in Leaving Neverland — and the potential backlash they may receive for allowing their sons to maintain relationships with Jackson during their childhoods — Safechuck said that “the parents are groomed as well.”
He elaborated: “Michael spends a lot of time talking to your parents and connecting with them and building relationships with them. He pays attention to them, and they’re groomed over the time. It is their job to protect us and they didn’t, but I try to look at it from their point of view without letting them off the hook because obviously that’s their job.”
Safechuck also said that he has “a lot of mixed feelings” about his relationship with Jackson. “There’s still a bit of love. And there’s almost like a guilt for saying the truth, like a betrayal,” he told King. “It’s like I still have that old wiring that’s still there. My understanding of my relationship with him — I think it needs a lot of work.”
In a portion of the CBS This Morning interview, which aired on Friday, Robson also told King that he often feels triggered when he hears Jackson’s songs play in public. “A lot of times, if I’m in a restaurant, I’ll be tapping along to the song or I’ll be singing the melody and then I’ll realize what I’m doing and it kind of takes over my whole body,” he said. “And I’ll have to leave.”
Robson and Safechuck also spoke about the reaction they expect after Leaving Neverland airs on HBO. “I expect people not to believe. There’s a lot of threats that are thrown my way from what seems like angry MJ fans,” said Robson, while Safechuck added, “I knew there’d be hate coming towards us. I was expecting that. My goal was to connect with other abuse survivors. I just try to focus on that.”
In response to criticism that the documentary doesn’t include the Jackson family’s side, Safechuck said, “I think we know what their side is. They’ve been very vocal about it. They say it’s all about the money.”
Robson insisted that Leaving Neverland is “not any sort of vendetta piece.” Though he admitted that it’s “not good for Michael’s name or legacy,” he said, “This is the truth of what happened.”
On Wednesday, CBS This Morning aired an interview of King’s with several of Jackson’s family members, such as brother Marlon Jackson and nephew Taj Jackson, among others. According to Marlon Jackson, Robson’s and Safechuck’s claims are “all about the money.”
Continued Taj Jackson, “It’s always been about money. I hate to say it when it’s my uncle; it’s almost like they see a blank check. These people … felt that they’re owed something. You know, instead of working for something, they blame everything on my uncle.”
After Leaving Neverland‘s debut in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Michael Jackson’s estate called the film “a tabloid character assassination” and insisted it “isn’t a documentary,” while his family called director Dan Reed and the pic’s two accusers “opportunists.”
Robson previously defended Jackson in court during the singer’s infamous 2005 child molestation case, but the Australia native says in the trailer for Leaving Neverland that he wasn’t telling the truth in his testimony. “I want to be able to speak the truth as loud as I had to speak the lie for so long,” he said.
Jackson’s estate has since filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO and its parent company, Time Warner, claiming that the network has violated a non-disparagement clause from a 1992 contract covering the airing of one of Jackson’s concerts.
Despite pushback from the Jackson family, HBO has stood firm in its plans to premiere the documentary.
King’s close friend Oprah Winfrey on Wednesday announced plans to air an hourlong Leaving Neverland TV special in which she will interview Robson and Safechuck in front of an audience that includes sexual abuse survivors. The special — titled Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland — will air simultaneously on HBO and OWN on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT immediately following the second and final part of the two-night Leaving Neverland.
Part one of Leaving Neverland will air Sunday on HBO. Watch portions of Robson and Safechuck’s interview on CBS This Morning in the clips below.
Feb. 28, 7:03 a.m. Updated with more quotes from Robson and Safechuck’s entire CBS This Morning interview.
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