Michael Jackson’s family has blasted the new documentary “Leaving Neverland” as “tabloid character assassination”.
The four-hour expose, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be shown on HBO later this year, centred on claims from James Safechuck and Wade Robson.
The men alleged that the musician, who died in 2009, sexually abused and manipulated them when they were children.
Since the film’s premiere on Friday, January 25, Michael’s nephew Taj Jackson, 45, vehemently denounced the claims made in the documentary, which he called a “hit job”.
“My family and I have known Wade and his family since he came to America. Don’t tell me a 4 hour one sided hit job that you watched is more reputable than people who actually knew him and saw his interactions,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is all about money and the desperate need to be relevant again.”
The former 3T singer has also started a GoFundMe page to raise money to film his own documentary in an effort to “conclusively destroy decades of salacious myths which have been told and sold about Michael Jackson”.
The King of Pop’s estate has also spoken out against the film, and slammed Safechuck and Robson as “liars”.
“‘Leaving Neverland’ isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” the statement read. “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 lengthy statement goes on to allege both men benefitted financially from Michael, and said Safechuck and Robson – and their lawyers – are out to make more money from the late musician.
“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,” the estate’s statement added.
Police guarded the movie theatre in Utah where the documentary was shown to manage any potential protests, while healthcare professionals were on standby to offer any assistance to audience members who were upset by the documentary’s content, according to Variety.
Editors at TMZ reported that Robson, 36, and Safechuck, 40, were emotional as they received a standing ovation after the film had ended.
Michael, 50, was found dead on 25 June, 2009, at his home in Los Angeles.