By now you must have watched the HBO Documentary, Leaving Neverland. The documentary is essentially a 4-hour interview in which two adult males, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, describe being seduced and sexually molested by Michael Jackson, at the height of his stardom, when they were mere children.
I watched Leaving Neverland when it premiered last Sunday, I watched it again on Monday, and today, four days later, I still cannot get the graphic details of these allegations against Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, out of my head. To say I am troubled and disturbed by the allegations is putting it mildly. I am not one to get into celebrity gossip or stories or the like, but I simply cannot get the details of this controversial documentary out of my head and it has left me wondering about the veracity of these horrific accusations.
Both Safechuck and Robson alleges in graphic detail the sexual seduction and abuse they suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson when they were merely 10 and 7 years old, respectively; at the time Michael Jackson was a grown man in his 30s. The age difference is staggering and one can only label Jackson a pedophile, if, and I repeat if these allegations are true.
Safechuck met Jackson when he won the role of a lifetime playing opposite Jackson in a Pepsi commercial in 1987 when he was only 8 years old. His relationship with Jackson soon blossomed after that as the allegations purport that Jackson not only seduced the then 10-year-old Safechuck but also his entire family, including his parents. Jackson became “friends” with Safechuck’s mother and in Leaving Neverland, Mrs. Safechuck even describes how she regarded Jackson as one of her own children. She describes him as “a son” and talks about preparing meals for him, speaking with him on the phone daily for hours and having him over for dinner several times in their home. It was therefore relatively easy for her to say “yes” when Jackson invited them on a vacation to Hawaii and later invited the then 10-year-old Safechuck to tour with him on his Bad tour. It was also relatively easy for her to comply when Jackson requested, while on the vacation in Hawaii, that her 10-year-old son sleep with him (Jackson) in his room.
Robson, who was born in and resided in Australia, met Jackson when he was merely 5 years old after winning an Australian dance contest where he won tickets to Jackson’s concert followed by a meet-and-greet. Thereafter Jackson allegedly told Robson’s mother to look him up if she ever came to the United States, which she did 2 years later, and was miraculously able to get in contact with him; and remember this is in a day and age before the Internet. It makes you wonder if certain things were just meant to be, or this is what Robson’s mother believed.
Robson and his family were invited into Jackson’s home while on their stay in the US and again the allegations are that Jackson was able to charm Mom into agreeing to allow her then 7-year-old child to spend time alone with Jackson in his private bedroom.
Dan Reed, the Director of Leaving Neverland, goes back and forth with the camera as both Safechuck and Robson are interviewed for the documentary. He does extreme close-ups of both men’s faces as they describe in very graphic details the sexual acts performed with Michael Jackson when they were mere boys, at 7 and 10 years old. Truthfully, the entire thing made me shudder and it was extremely difficult for me to wrap my mind around the allegations. My gosh, they were not even teenagers yet (not saying that would make the allegations any less disturbing) but 7 and 10 years old! My gosh! They were mere babies!
Safechuck alleges that his sexual relationship with Jackson lasted from the ages of 10 to 14, while Robson states that his relationship with Jackson was on and off for 7 years from ages 7 to 14. The indication is given in the documentary that Jackson preferred it when the boys were very young and as they entered their early teens he abandoned his relationship with them for other younger boys. Robson even claims that he was replaced by child actor Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone fame.
It is interesting to note that Culkin has vehemently denied any inappropriate conduct from Jackson during the several years they “hung out as friends”. It is also interesting to note that Dan Reed, the Director, never bothered to interview Culkin or any other of the several children, who are now men in their 30s, who were always seen in Jackson’s company at the height of his stardom.
The premiere of Leaving Neverland has, of course, revived sexual abuse allegations made against Jackson in the past. In August of 1993, Evan Chandler, a dentist, accused Jackson of sexually abusing his 13-year-old son Jordon Chandler. Jackson vehemently denied the allegations and both Safechuck and Robson gave sworn testimonies in affidavits stating that Jackson is a wholesome person, a good friend, that never once touched them inappropriately. Jackson later settled out of court with The Chandlers for $23,000,000 (yes, that’s right 23 million) and in September 1993 the criminal investigation related to the Jordon Chandler case was closed.
There were similar allegations within the following decade made against Jackson which culminated in criminal charges being brought against him in January 2004 when then 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo accused Jackson of sexually molesting him. This time there was no out of court settlement and the case went to trial, a trial that lasted several months. One of the key witnesses for Jackson in this 2005 trial was none other than Wade Robson, who testified for days about the innocence of his friendship with Jackson.
Both Safechuck and Robson were adults in 2005 during Jackson’s sexual molestation trial, Robson, who was 23 years old at the time, testified under oath that Jackson never sexually abused him. Safechuck, who was 27 at the time, stated in the documentary that when Michael contacted him to testify on his behalf in 2005 he refused, told Jackson to never call him again and hung up the phone.
The fact that both Safechuck and Robson defended Jackson in 1993 when 13-year-old Chandler accused him of sexual molestation and misconduct and Robson again in 2005, defended Jackson, this time by taking the stand has many die-hard Michael Jackson fans questioning their credibility. There has also been talk about both men making the documentary for money. However, it has been postulated over and over again by Director Dan Reed, that neither man has been “renumerated” for telling his story.
Oprah Winfrey interviewed both Safechuck and Robson after Leaving Neverland aired and she asked a pertinent question of them both, “Why come forward now?”
Both men, who are now married with sons of their own, have essentially said it is because of their children. They are now watching their own children grow up and are motivated to tell the truth as they watch the innocence of their own children on display.
Safechuck has said “I want to speak the truth as loud as I spoke the lie. Michael made you feel like you did it, that it was all your idea, Then you look at your own kid, and for the first time realize, “What? That just makes no sense.”
Today I read on BBC.com that a statue of Michael Jackson has been removed from the National Football Museum in Manchester, England. I was a bit taken aback. I also read a few articles where radio stations are considering no longer playing Michael Jackson’s songs.
Jackson’s music has always uplifted me, admittedly it still did this week even after watching Leaving Neverland. Jackson is no longer alive to defend himself and it bothers me that these allegations are now being made when he should be resting in peace.
However, there is something about Safechuck, not so much Robson, but James Safechuck, as I watch him give his interview to Oprah that makes me believe him. His eyes are filled with pain, his face distorted in disbelief that he simply cannot believe he’s actually doing this, that he’s actually talking out loud about something he had vowed to take to his grave. You can almost tell that he takes no pleasure from all of this. He still talks about his “love” for Jackson and the fact that he “feels like he is letting him down”.
In all honesty, I don’t know what to believe about Michael Jackson anymore. I am a fan. In light of these horrible allegations will I remain a fan? Should we now shun the man, his legacy and his music because of a controversial documentary? Or should we separate the man from his art? What say you? Do you believe that the King of Pop was capable of such appalling acts, especially against children?