Member of Michael Jackson’s family have appeared on US television to defend the singer in the week that a documentary labelling him a sexual predator is set to air.
Brothers Tito, Marlon and Jackie and nephew Taj have yet to see Leaving Neverland but claim that the four-hour HBO/Channel 4 co-production is filled with untruths. The documentary, that premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival to great acclaim, features the testimonies of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that the singer sexually abused them as children.
“I know my brother,” Jackie said in an interview on CBS This Morning. “He’s my little brother. I know my brother. He’s not like that.”
Director Dan Reed chose to focus the documentary on the two men and their families without featuring other voices, a decision that the estate has criticised.
“There has not been not one piece of evidence that corroborates their story,” Marlon said. “And they’re not interested in doing that.”
In the documentary, both Robson and Safechuck reveal what they claim happened at Neverland when Jackson would invite them for sleepovers, detailing graphic sexual assault, a claim that Taj denies.
“I grew up in it, so for me it wasn’t odd,” Taj said of his uncle’s frequent slumber parties with children. “You know, I think, to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I’m not oblivious to what it sounds like … But I think, the fault on my uncle was he just, he didn’t have that bone in his body to look at it the other way. And I think that was the thing, is that his naiveté was his downfall in a way.”
They believe that the reason behind the two men coming forward is purely financial. “It’s all about money,” Marlon said. Taj referred to his uncle as “a blank cheque”.
Earlier this week, CBS also spoke to Leaving Neverland’s director Dan Reed, who defended the men’s stories and his decision to keep the focus tightly on those who were there. “What was important to me was to have eyewitnesses or people who could add something to the story,” he said. “I don’t know that the Jackson family has any direct knowledge of what happened to Wade and James.”
The singer’s estate has already filed a suit against HBO claiming the network is in breach of a non-disparagement clause that was part of a 1992 contract to show an earlier concert. They are seeking up to $100m in damages.
The BBC has also announced that they will be making a rival documentary that will feature “the individuals who shaped him and were close to him” and will not shy away from controversy.