Michael Jackson's Family Says 'Leaving Neverland' Claims Are "All About Money"
Family members defend Jackson's "sleepovers" and say that the "Thriller" singer's "naivete was his downfall" in an interview with Gayle King that aired on 'CBS This Morning.'
Michael Jackson's family is defending the late singer's "sleepovers" with children as members continue to push back against claims of sexual abuse in the upcoming two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, set to air Sunday on HBO.
"I grew up in it, so for me it wasn't odd," Michael's nephew Taj Jackson tells Gayle King of what a member of the family called Jackson's "sleepovers" with children in an interview that aired Wednesday on CBS This Morning. (Clips of the sit-down were released Tuesday.) "You know, I think, to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I'm not oblivious to what it sounds like. But when you're actually there in that atmosphere and you're around it, and you're watching movies with his kids, whether it's Little Rascals or Three Stooges, and you're watching these things, it's like, it's very innocent."
Continues Taj, "But I think the fault on my uncle was he just, he didn't have that bone in his body to look at it the other way. And I think that was the thing, is that his naivete was his downfall in a way.... That's what hurts me more than anything is knowing his innocence but knowing how the world works."
King asks the family members if anyone told Michael while he was alive that the sleepovers didn't "look good."
"I did," Taj says. "I said, 'Maybe you should just hang around family,' and he said, 'Then I'm not doing God's work.' My uncle always liked to help people. That was my uncle's purpose.… He connected with kids because that was his childhood."
In the four-hour Leaving Neverland, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, allege that the singer molested them over the course of years, despite the fact that both have sworn under oath in previous circumstances that he did not sexually abuse them. Robson, a child Jackson impersonator, says the abuse began when he was seven, while Safechuck, a former child dancer with Jackson, says it began when he was 10.
On Feb. 21, Michael's estate sued HBO and Time Warner over the film, alleging it breached a non-disparagement clause dating back from a former contract.
At another point in the interview, King inquires how the family can push back against the documentary when they haven't yet seen it. "Don't you need to see it?" she asks.
"No, I don't," Michael's older brother Jackie Jackson replies. "I know my brother, he's my little brother. I know my brother. He's not like that."
Marlon Jackson also tells King that he doesn't need to see the film because "I trust my attorney."
King also says that none of them were in the room when the alleged abuse occurred.
"No we weren't there," Marlon says. "Nobody was there, but the facts are public record: What he testified under oath. All the different things that he said. Those are the facts."
Additionally, members of the Jackson family claim that accusers Robson and Safechuck are making allegations now against the "Thriller" singer because they are looking for a payout and because the King of Pop is no longer around to defend himself.
"It's all about the money," Marlon tells King.
"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," Taj adds. "These people...felt that they're owed something. You know, instead of working for something, they blame everything on my uncle."
When King relates Robson's claim that he didn't speak out earlier because he was trying to protect Jackson, Taj says, "Wade's never protected anyone."
"Michael helped him with videos and music from that side of things," Marlon explains at another point. "But if Neverland was so horrifying for him, why would you keep going back?"
When asked if Michael was ever abusive toward children, the interview subjects all resoundingly deny the claims.
"Never inappropriate," Marlon says.
"The people that really know him, they know the truth, too," Jackie says.
King also asked the male members of the Jackson family she spoke to if everyone in the family feels the way they do, because she says she hasn't heard anything from their sisters.
They all insist that everyone in the family feels that way and Taj adds, "I think there's a fear as well to put more energy to it and more eyeballs to it. I think that's why my aunt Janet hasn't said anything because she doesn't want to make it any bigger."
The family members also insist that they don't benefit financially from Jackson's estate so their denials aren't for their own economic benefit.
They also object to director Dan Reed's process, claiming that he never reached out to them for a response to Robson and Safechuck's allegations.
"He took what they were saying as face value to be true. He trusted them, which is nothing wrong with that, but you must verify," Marlon says. "Because when you start throwing allegations against someone, then you have to go back and go, 'Wait a minute. Let me make sure I'm telling the right thing, make sure they're not selling me a bunch of goods,' which they were."
King asks the family members if they were worried about what the film would do to Michael's legacy and Jackie says, "Not at all."
And when she alludes to the #MeToo movement and recent allegations that have come out against high-profile figures in the entertainment industry by saying that the present time "does seem to be a day of reckoning," Taj says, "We don't want to get in the way of that, but you have to shine the light brightly on both sides."
The interview is one of several that CBS This Morning is conducting with concerned parties about Leaving Neverland; on Tuesday, Reed appeared on the program, and on Thursday, King will conduct interviews with Robson and Safechuck.
Watch King's interview with the Jackson family, which aired in two parts on CBS This Morning, below.
Feb. 27, 11:41 a.m.: This story has been updated with additional information from the Jackson family members' full interview with Gayle King, as it aired on CBS This Morning.