Michael Jackson Songs Pulled From Broadcasts, 'The Simpsons' After 'Leaving Neverland'

"The Simpsons" removed an episode featuring a Michael Jackson storyline from syndication.

By Ethan Harfenist
Digital Original
Michael Jackson Sex Scandals, Explained

After “Leaving Neverland,” some networks and radio stations are leaving Michael Jackson behind.

HBO’s explosive new documentary “Leaving Neverland” focuses on the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s, who alleged they met the King of Pop when they were children, and later, were sexually abused by him.

Robson and Safechuck’s public comments about the pop star have changed over the years. Both defended him when he was accused in 1993 of molesting a 13-year-old boy. Robson testified in support of Jackson more than a decade later, in 2005, but following Jackson’s death in 2009, both men came forward with sexual assault allegations against Jackson and filed lawsuits against his estate. Those cases were ultimately dismissed, but Robson and Safechuck recounted the alleged abuse again for the HBO film.

With Jackson’s behavior again under the scrutiny, media companies around the world are reevaluating his legacy.

March 7: Simpsons Nix Episode Featuring Michael Jackson

A co-creator of “The Simpsons” on Thursday said the show is pulling “Stark Raving Dad,” an early episode in which Jackson voiced an overweight, white mental patient interned with Homer that sincerely thought he was the King of Pop despite all evidence to the contrary.

James L. Brooks said that although he “treasured” the episode, the program has begun the process of removing it from syndication.

“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m against book burning of any kind, but this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

He added: "There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that [episode], and this certainly doesn't allow them to remain."

Jackson was credited as John Jay Smith for the episode, according to NME. While he provided the voice for mental patient Leon Kompowsky, a Michael Jackson impersonator named Kipp Lennon actually provided the vocals for the episode’s famous song, “Lisa, It’s Your Birthday.”

March 6: Radio Silence For Jackson

Radio stations around the world have started taking Jackson’s tunes out of their rotation, the New York Times reports.

Three stations in Montreal, Quebec — French-language stations CKOI and Rythme, as well as English-language station The Beat — ceased playing Jackson songs in direct response to “Leaving Neverland,” local outlet City News 1130 reports.

“We are attentive to listeners’ comments, and [HBO’s] documentary created reactions,” Christine Dicaire, director of marketing and communications for Cogeco Media, which owns the three stations, said in a statement quoted by City News.

She added that the company will apply this same policy to stations it owns in smaller areas of Canada, as well.

Meanwhile, two of the biggest radio networks in New Zealand have also removed Jackson from their playlists over the documentary.

One of those radio companies is MediaWorks. Its content director, Leon Wratt, said that audiences made clear that they had no appetite for Jackson’s music.

“We aren’t deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of pedophilia or not,” Wratt said in an interview on Magic, one of MediaWorks’ stations. “We’re just merely trying to make sure that our radio stations are going to play the music that people want to hear.”

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