Michael Jackson’s Estate Calls ‘Leaving Neverland’ Documentary ‘Tabloid Character Assassination’

Sundance 2019: “The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact,” pop icon’s estate says

Last Updated: January 26, 2019 @ 10:48 AM

Michael Jackson’s estate called the documentary “Leaving Neverland” “tabloid character assassination” after viewing the film about the pop icon at Sundance on Friday.

The four-hour documentary by Dan Reed features detailed accounts from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Jackson molested them when they were underage boys. The Jackson estate referred to both Robson and Safechuck by name as “admitted liars” and disputed the film as “blatantly one-sided.”

“‘Leaving Neverland’ isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” Jackson’s estate said in a statement. “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. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided 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.”

Protesters were on hand ahead of the film’s screening on Friday, after which Robson, Safechuck and Reed appeared on stage to a standing ovation. The film will premiere on HBO this spring.

The estate also slammed Reed for being one-sided in his approach and admitting at Sundance that he limited his interviews to only the accusers and their families. The first two hours of the documentary lay out the accusations by Robson and Safechuck while the remaining two hours outline the aftermath, when both Robson and Safechuck testified on Jackson’s behalf and denied any sexual contact. In the film they say that they were so enamored with Jackson that they were determined to keep their stories secret.

“By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait,” the estate said. “Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.”

In 2017, a judge dismissed a case brought by Robson and testimony from 2013. According to the Associated Press, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff found that two corporations owned by Jackson, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures that were also defendants in the case, were not liable for Robson’s exposure to Jackson, but the judge didn’t rule on the credibility of Robson’s child abuse accusations specifically.

In 2016, Safechuck filed an amended complaint saying that the two companies negligently enabled Jackson’s abuse of underage boys, according to the Los Angeles Times. That case, was also dismissed.

Jackson’s estate concludes by saying they are “sympathetic” to “legitimate” victims of child abuse and accuse Robson and Safechuck and their lawyers of only being interested in money.

“Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself, 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 estate wrote.

Read the full statement from Jackson’s estate below:

Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, 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. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided 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.

Tellingly, the director admitted at the Sundance Film Festival that he limited his interviews only to these accusers and their families. In doing so, he 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. By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait.

For 20 years Wade Robson denied in court and in numerous interviews, including after Michael passed, that he was a victim and stated he was grateful for everything Michael had done for him. His family benefitted from Michael’s kindness, generosity and career support up until Michael’s death. Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.

We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. 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, 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 Estate of Michael Jackson

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