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Michael Jackson’s family calls ‘Leaving Neverland’ reaction a ‘public lynching’

Michael Jackson’s family calls ‘Leaving Neverland’ reaction a ‘public lynching’
The family of Michael Jackson is disputing a new film about the late pop star. Above, Jackson in 2005. (Kevork Djansezian / AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Jackson’s family is speaking out about the controversial new docu-series “Leaving Neverland,” which sent shock waves through the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend — and ignited a fury online from fans who have yet to see the film.

“Michael Jackson is our brother and son,” the statement issued to The Times early Monday said. “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.”

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Directed by British documentarian Dan Reed, the project unpacks in explicit detail the allegations of two adult men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege they suffered years of sexual abuse at Jackson's hands when they were boys.

The 233-minute, two-part documentary was only shown once at Sundance ahead of its debut on HBO and British public broadcaster Channel 4 in March.

Both Robson and Safechuck testified on the pop star’s behalf in a 1993 sexual-abuse case brought by a different boy (and in the case of Robson, again in Jackson’s 2005 trial on charges of child molestation and of administering an intoxicating agent to a minor), and claimed at the time that Jackson never did anything inappropriate.

They now say they were lying, motivated by love and loyalty for Jackson, and were only able to face the truth after they each had young children of their own as they dealt with mental health issues from compartmentalizing the abuse.

Their stories, supported by their wives, mothers and, in Robson’s case, multiple other family members, are detailed, specific and — for viewers who have seen the film at Sundance — credible.

Jackson’s estate had previously slammed the project as a smear campaign that “takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact” and pointed to Safechuck and Robson’s past lawsuits as motivation.

Wade Robson, left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck from the documentary "Leaving Neverland."
Wade Robson, left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck from the documentary "Leaving Neverland." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The estate also took issue with the fact that Reed did not interview anyone from Jackson’s camp.

“People who don’t know much about sexual abuse find it astonishing that Wade would stand up in court in 2005,” Reed said to the audience after the film’s premiere. “That’s why this film became four hours because it’s a story you have to follow from the beginning and weave across two decades … it is so potentially confusing. I did do a huge amount of research into the 1993 and 2005 cases and I interviewed prosecutors … but in the end, I decided we have the story through the eyes of these men now … this time I just decided to keep it in the family.”

In Monday’s statement issued on behalf of Jackson’s immediate family, they voice their frustrations with the media’s coverage of the series and the accusers’ history of litigation against the late singer.

Here’s the full statement:

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.

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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

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