by G. Brown
One month ago HBO premiered its explosive documentary “Leaving Neverland” exposing the sexual abuse two men say they suffered as children under the hands of legendary entertainer Michael Jackson.
In the two-part doc, Wade Robson and James Safechuck recant how they spent years being subjected to sexual abuse of Jackson at his Neverland ranch.
The HBO doc on its first night airing in the U.S. had more than one million viewers glued to the TV and just under a million viewers the second night. Over in the UK, “Leaving Neverland” broke streaming records becoming the most downloaded show ever for Channel 4. Nearly another million people stayed to watch Oprah Winfrey’s follow up “After Neverland” in which Winfrey interviewed the Robson and Safechuck, both now in their 30’s, about their stories.
After all the publicity and the trending hashtags, some are alleging that at least one of the accuser’s tale doesn’t line up with the facts.
A tweet from a Jackson fan called out Safechuck specifically saying he was sexually assaulted by Jackson at the Neverland train station from 1988 to 1992. The problem as the Twitter post points out, the train station did not exist until 1993.
According to Hiphopdx.com “It appears HBO has planned to stop airing the Leaving Neverland documentary this month. According to HBO’s website, the only listing for the Michael Jackson-related series is April 17. There are no further dates listed after that even though the original end time was scheduled for September.” “A rep for HBO has denied the network is pulling its Leaving Neverland documentary…”
The same article also claims, “Oprah Winfrey also seems to be distancing herself from the documentary. All of her public tweets regarding Leaving Neverland have been removed and the interviews she conducted have disappeared from her YouTube channel.”
If both claims are true, HBO and Winfrey could simply be doing a little damage control in preparation for the legal battle that is already on the way since the Jackson estate has already filed a suit against HBO.
Is this just sloppy journalism on behalf of HBO and Winfrey? That’s doubtful–you can say a lot of things about Winfrey, but the woman is a superior interviewer and journalist. So what could have been the motive for two powerhouse media outlets getting entangled in what is surely going to be a long legal battle over the validity of their documentary and special reports? Perhaps they got caught up in the frenzy that has been the #MeToo movement.
Lifetime’s documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” proved groundbreaking and a ratings win. The doc led to new legal troubles for the singer also accused of raping teen girls and videotaping the crimes. But there are no tapes of Jackson assaulting or molesting young boys. And R. Kelly is still on this side of life to fight what he calls false allegations. But Jackson isn’t here to deny or confirm anything.
Robson and Safechuck had already filed court cases against Jackson since his death and the judge dismissed the lawsuits saying too much had time had passed and that the singer’s estate could not be held liable.
And to cast further doubt on both Robson’s and Safechuck’s stories, both as children testified on Jackson’s behalf that he never harmed them. Robeson also defended Jackson as an adult. Jackson was tried on one case in 1993, the case was dismissed and settled out of court. That defendant didn’t take part in this documentary.
No adult should be allowed to hide behind the veneer of celebrity, clout or money and get away with abusing children. But we can’t grab torches and join mobs to go after every person who claims #MeToo without doing a bit of due diligence and making sure we understand who’s the real victim.
Both HBO and Winfrey says they intended to focus on the victims and the bigger altruistic goal was to help all child abuse victims. That’s a good cause, but if the foundation is not on sound allegations and the integrity of the victims, is the entire effort built on a house of cards? And who does that help except HBO and Winfrey who added millions of viewers?