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Michael Jackson estate hits out again as new documentary on alleged child abuse premieres

By | Published on Monday 28 January 2019

Michael Jackson

A new documentary focussing on child abuse accusations made by two men against Michael Jackson – called ‘Leaving Neverland’ – has largely been praised by critics at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered over the weekend. The star’s estate, however, maintains that it is “tabloid character assassination” of the late king of pop and that his accusers’ claims have “always been about money”.

The majority of the reports from those who saw the film this weekend seem to accept the accusations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were abused by Jackson in the 1990s, when aged seven and ten respectively.

New York Post reporter Fracensca Bacardi said on Twitter that the film had “left people appalled” and – referencing the very high profile criminal case against the singer in 2005, in relation to other claims of child abuse – “wondering how Michael Jackson got acquitted”.

Both Robson and Safechuck appeared on stage after the second part of the film was screened on Saturday. Safechuck said that they had not been paid by the filmmakers and never expected to be.

The two accusers both launched legal action in relation to their respective abuse allegations after Jackson’s death in 2009: Robson in 2013 and Safechuck in 2014. Both cases were dismissed before reaching trial, the courts saying that they had waited too long to launch civil proceedings in relation to the abuse allegations.

Prior to that, while Jackson was still alive, both men had testified in defence of the star during that 2005 criminal trial, providing testimonies that contributed to the musician’s acquittal. In the film, Robson says he subsequently admitted that he was abused to a therapist, after experiencing two breakdowns.

Both men explain what they say happened to them in graphic detail in the film, adding that they only felt comfortable telling their respective stories after meeting each other in the wake of their legal action. However, the Jackson estate continues to describe them as “admitted liars” who are making “efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday”.

“‘Leaving Neverland’ isn’t a documentary”, says the estate. “It is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge”.

It went on to say that the film provides “no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers”. Moreover, it adds, director Dan Reed “intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them”.

“We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse”, the estate insists. “This film, however, does those victims a disservice. Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money – millions of dollars – dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael’s Estate”.

“Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself”, the estate concludes, “Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive”.

The film is set to air in the UK on Channel 4 in the spring.