Michael Jackson’s surviving family members have continued their campaign to clear his name following the Sundance premiere of “Leaving Neverland,” a controversial documentary detailing the claims of two men who say the pop icon molested them for years as children.
“Leaving Neverland” is scheduled to premiere on HBO Sunday, and his estate has already filed a lawsuit in connection to the film, accusing the network of violating a decades-old contract by agreeing to air a film which it claims disparages Michael Jackson by telling a “one-sided” story.
Jackson’s brothers Tito, Marlon, and Jackie, as well Jackson’s nephew Taj, defended the late singer during an interview with “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday, referring to Michael as someone who was naïve during his lifetime, again claiming that Michael never harmed, molested, or was otherwise inappropriate with any children.
“We know our brother. Michael wouldn’t do anything like that,” Marlon said.
Taj pointed to his uncle’s “naiveté” as being his “downfall,” CBS News reported. As a child, he attended sleepovers at Jackson’s home, and said of the gatherings: “When you're actually there in that atmosphere, and you’re around it, and you’re watching movies, yes, with his kids ... it’s very innocent. 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 ... his naiveté was his downfall in a way. And I think that’s what hurts me more than anything is knowing his innocence, but then knowing how the world is.”
Michael was accused of child molestation in 2003, but was acquitted of all charges in 2005. At the time, both James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the men featured in the documentary, told investigators that Michael never molested them, according to Vanity Fair. Both men have since sued the Jackson estate, but their cases were thrown out because the statutes of limitations had run out. However, they are appealing those decisions, according to CBS.
Robson explained why he defended Michael as a child and why he waited to tell his story during an interview with Inside Edition last year.
“It was not possible for me to tell the truth about what Michael Jackson did to me until I did because when I was younger, I was terrified by the idea of my life falling apart [and] him going to jail,” he said.
Jackson’s brothers and nephew, who all criticized director Dan Reed for allegedly never reaching out to Jackson’s family to be interviewed for the film, said that they have not seen the film and never will. Throughout the interview, they suggested that Jackson’s accusers are motivated by money and are only making their claims now because Michael is no longer alive.
“I don’t have to see the documentary. I know Michael. I’m the oldest brother. I know my brother,” Jackie said. “I know what he stood for, what he was all about — bringing the world together, making kids happy.”
Near the end of the interview, Marlon had a message for the film’s potential viewers.
“I want them to understand and know that this documentary is not telling the truth,” he said. “There has not been not one piece of evidence that corroborates their story, and they’re not interested in doing that.”
In response to the Jackson family interview, Robson and Safechuck will be appearing on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday. In a preview of that interview, Robson said that he believed that Michael molested "many other boys," as Safechuck noted that he originally planned to take what had happened to him "to [his] grave."
Reed recently stood by his work, explaining during an interview with “CBS This Morning” this week that the film includes Michael's defense by featuring things Michael and his legal team said in relation to the allegations when Michael was alive, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“What was important for me was to have eyewitnesses or people who could add something to the story. I don’t know that the Jackson family has any direct knowledge of what happened to Wade and James. I don’t believe they do. If they do, then they should come forward,” Reed said. “We know that the family and the estate[s] and Jackson during his lifetime and his lawyers all deny that any sexual abuse took place and those views are strongly represented in the film. We give those views a lot of time in the film on screen and we have people casting doubt on Wade’s change of heart.”
“Leaving Neverland” is scheduled to premiere on HBO on March 3 and 4.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.