Michael Jackson Family Condemns 'Leaving Neverland' Doc
The singer's estate described the doc as a "tabloid character assassination" in a statement released the same day of the film's Sundance premiere.
Michael Jackson’s estate is blasting a documentary that tells the stories of two men who accuse Michael Jackson of sexually molesting them when they were young boys, calling the film “tabloid character assassination.”
A statement released by Jackson's estate calls the men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, "two perjurers" — a reference to sworn statements the men gave when Jackson was alive that he had not abused them. The men leveled their abuse allegations after Jackson's death.
The pair's stories are the basis for Leaving Neverland, a four-hour documentary that will air later this year on HBO and the U.K.'s Channel 4. It earned a somber standing ovation after its premiere at Sundance.
The estate accuses the film of focusing too much on Robson and Safechuck and ignoring others who spent significant time with Jackson and "stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them."
Robson, a choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears and other top acts, testified for Jackson's defense at the 2005 trial that ended with the pop star's acquittal on molestation charges.
"The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact," the statement read. "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. … Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made."
The family points out that Jackson, who died in 2009, was subjected to a thorough investigation that included a surprise raid of his home, the Neverland Ranch, but was still acquitted at his criminal trial in 2005 in a case involving another young man.
During that trial, Robson testified that he had slept in Jackson's room many times but that Jackson had never molested him. Safechuck made similar statements to investigators as a boy.
Both men filed lawsuits in 2013 saying stress and trauma had forced them to face the truth and admit they were sexually abused. The suits have been thrown out on technical grounds but are under appeal.
The estate's statement says the Jackson family is "furious" that media outlets have chosen "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."
The film's director, Dan Reed, has said he has no doubts about the men's truthfulness.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Robson and Safechuck have done on multiple occasions.
The family insists that truth and evidence are on their side. "We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for," the statement said.
Jan. 28, 8 a.m. Updated with Jackson family statement.