Michael Jackson’s family has hit back at Leaving Neverland, the four-hour documentary detailing alleged child molestation by Jackson that’s thus far the biggest story coming out of this year’s ongoing Sundance Film Festival. Early word is that the documentary, which is centered on sexual abuse allegations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both met Jackson as children, could very well alter Jackson’s posthumous image beyond repair. “It only takes about two minutes into the four-hour documentary Leaving Neverland to realize that Michael Jackson’s legacy is never going to be the same again,” wrote Benjamin Lee in his review for The Guardian.
Soon after the doc’s Friday premiere, Jackson’s estate issued a statement, denouncing Leaving Neverland as “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,” added the estate in a multi-paragraph response to Rolling Stone.
Now, Jackson’s family has issued its own statement, hitting back at the media for picking up reports coming out of Sundance about the damning nature of the documentary (sample tweet, via IndieWire’s David Ehrlich: “spoiler alert: Michael Jackson 100% sexually abused a lot of children...”).
“...The truth is on our side,” writes the family. “Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do.”
The family’s full statement is below:
“Michael Jackson is our brother and son. We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose 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, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity. We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for.
People have always loved to go after Michael. He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.
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, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.
The creators of this film were not interested in the truth. They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories.
But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100% innocent of these false allegations.
The Jackson Family”
Billboard reported that Robson testified at Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial, “saying he had slept in Jackson’s room many times, but that Jackson had never molested him.” Jackson was eventually acquitted of all charges. Billboard continues:
“Safechuck made similar statements to investigators as a boy. Jackson died in 2009. 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.”
Jackson supporters began flooding the mentions of Sundance attendees Friday with fan-made videos (like this one) that they say demonstrates Jackson’s innocence. They include clips of Robson denying he was ever molested by Jackson.
Leaving Neverland will air this spring on HBO.