A new documentary about Michael Jackson was destined to drum up controversy and now the late singer's estate has responded. Leaving Neverland debuted at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend and follows two adults who claim that when they were children they were sexually abused by the singer. Shortly after the documentary's debut in Park City, UT, the estate of the late performer issued a statement claiming that the two accusers were liars and questioning the documentary status of the film. The statement reads, in part...
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.
Accusations of child abuse plagued Michael Jackson a great deal during the latter portion of the singer's life. Lawsuits were filed but as the statement (via Variety) point out, they were dismissed. Jackson was also charged in Santa Barbara court with child molestation, but he was acquitted of the charges.
There was really no way that a documentary about Michael Jackson dealing with this portion of his life was not going to court controversy and backlash. For many the truth of this situation has never been revealed. Jackson was one of the most famous people who has ever lived and his eclectic lifestyle only increased the scrutiny.
The statement goes on to accuse one of the accusers of only bringing forward his allegations after he was denied a part in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil show. While he did accuse Jackson of behaving improperly, he had apparently previously gone on record denying the singer had ever done anything to him, which the statement uses to question his credibility.
In the end, the Jackson Estate claims that Leaving Neverland does a disservice to those that have truly been victims of sex abuse, stating that these allegations are about nothing more than making money and achieving celebrity.
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.
As inflammatory as the new documentary may be, it's unlikely to change anything. many have made up their minds about Michael Jackson's guilt on this topic. Those that defend him likely won't be dissuaded by this film, and those that believe Jackson was guilty likely don't need the support.