NOTE: This article contains sexual and offensive language and may be triggering for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.
Michael Jackson’s family members said Monday that they are “furious” that two men who accuse him of sexually abusing them as boys have received renewed attention because of a new documentary about them.
Jackson’s family released a statement denouncing Leaving Neverland, a documentary film featuring Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck that premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to air in the spring on HBO and the U.K.’s Channel 4.
“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,” the statement said.
The statement continued: “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.”
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They also point out that Jackson was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a raid of his home, the Neverland Ranch, but was still acquitted at his criminal trial in 2005, in a case involving another young man.
Robson testified at that trial, saying 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. 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.
The Jackson statement calls the men “perjurers” because of this reversal, saying the family is “furious” that media outlets without evidence 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.”
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The statement continued: “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.”
“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,” the statement read. “That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories.”
The family insists that truth and evidence are on their side.
“We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for,” the statement said.
“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 statement concluded.
Jackson’s nephew Taj Jackson also criticized Leaving Neverland and Robson in a tweet Sunday.
The film’s director Dan Reed has said he has no doubts about the men’s validity.
A description of Leaving Neverland says it tells the story of two men who are now in their 30s and began long-running relationships with Jackson at ages seven and 10 when Jackson was at the height of his fame.
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The description also says, “Now in their 30s, they tell the story of how they were sexually abused by Jackson, and how they came to terms with it years later.”
The film is produced and directed by BAFTA-winning director Reed. The film runs nearly four hours long (about 233 minutes) and will be screened at the festival in two parts.
According to Sundance’s website, the synopsis for Leaving Neverland states, “As one of the world’s most celebrated icons, Michael Jackson represents many things to many people — a pop star, a humanitarian, a beloved idol. When allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that the King of Pop could be guilty of such unspeakable acts.”
The synopsis continues, “In separate but parallel stories that echo one another, two boys were each befriended by Jackson, who invited them into his singular and wondrous world. Seduced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence and enthralled by their relationship with him, both boys’ families were blind to the manipulation and abuse that he would ultimately subject them to.”
It concludes, “Through gut-wrenching interviews with the now-adult men and their families, Leaving Neverland crafts a portrait of sustained exploitation and deception, documenting the power of celebrity that allowed a revered figure to infiltrate the lives of starstruck children and their parents.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.
— With files from the Associated Press