"I know I will be on the right side of history and I'd rather fight to be on this side of history to secure Michael's legacy," one superfan tells Nick Reilly
Some of Michael Jackson‘s biggest supporters have led a protest outside Channel 4’s London HQ, ahead of Leaving Neverland‘s premiere this evening.
The documentary will air over two consecutive nights and features extensive testimonies from James Safechuck and Wade Robson – who both allege that they were abused by the late pop icon as children.
While Jackson’s estate has vehemently denied the claims, his fans have now voiced their opposition to the documentary below.
Here, some of his biggest supporters tell NME why – in spite of overwhelming evidence and compelling stories from alleged victims – they believe that the documentary is a unfair portrayal of Jackson’s personal life.
Peggy Wolf, a Michael Jackson tribute artist from Graz, Austria.
Why are you campaigning against the documentary?
“These two guys have said under oath that Michael didn’t abuse them, and he’s been found not guilty by trial and FBI investigations.
“So to come out and say that this happened after 10 years makes no sense. Not for his family, not for people who have worked for Michael and not for any of us. Without hearing the opinions of both sides, it’s not a real documentary.
“I don’t believe that Michael pressured them to give testimonies. I’ve got inside information from people who lived with Michael, the children were around him and they were handled very very well. Nothing, nothing happened. “
Are you fearful of the impact on Michael’s reputation and his music?
“His music is timeless because it has such a strong message. But the new generation who don’t know about Michael and don’t know the background will be infected with untrue information.
“I’ve come from Austria to be here and we have a group there that helps children. Our main reason is to continue Michael’s goal to help children.”
Ronnie Beharry, a Michael Jackson tribute act of over 30 years.
What’s your main criticism of the documentary?
“Well I think the documentary is an attempt to extort money from Michael Jackson and he’s not here to defend himself. It’s a brave attempt to extort money and bring his name down. He’s not here to defend himself and it’s completely wrong because he was cleared of all wrongdoing at the last trial.
“It’s all negativity and I think Channel 4 shouldn’t have bought it and aired it. I feel strongly about it and that’s why I’m here to go against the lies. Think of the effect on his family and his kids, just let him rest in peace. He’s done a lot for the world, and now it’s an attempt to extort money from him.
“Wade Robson testified against him in a court of law and now later in life he’s changed his story. His career is not happening, no one is using him so he’s using Michael Jackson to extort money.”
There was also the case of Jordy Chandler, who received a $23 million payout from Jackson in 1994. One of the key pieces of evidence was Chandler’s description of Jackson’s penis – which was allegedly proved to be anatomically correct.
“I’ve read a lot about that case and it was brought by Chandler’s dad, who committed suicide after Michael’s death. I think they were extorting money.
“I don’t know what happened behind closed doors, but he [Jackson] probably came out of the shower and he [Chandler] thought ‘oh yeah, here’s an opportunity’.”
Are you scared of the impact it could have on Michael’s reputation?
“Well I just don’t think this documentary is necessary. They never focus on the good things he did – the millions he raised for charity. To bring him down is just negative.
“It’s a cliche to say it, but Michael Jackson changed my life. A lot of radio stations are boycotting his music but what for? I hope the estate and Michael Jackson’s family have an appropriate response.”
Thomas Avery – a Michael Jackson fan of 30 years who saw him on the Bad, Dangerous and History world tours.
What’s your main criticism of Leaving Neverland?
“I just don’t think it’s fair and it’s not justified. It’s a one sided story. I’m trying really hard to not call it a documentary, because it’s not an evidence based programme that looks at all sides and research.”
What about the claims of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say that Jackson threatened them into testifying in his defence?
“In terms of threatening Wade and James, I don’t know – we’re looking at what two people have said. But look at fans, look at research. Go online and look at what these two men have said. One is an actor and one has changed his story four times.”
Radio stations have already started boycotting his music. Do you think it will have a big impact?
“I think the radio boycott is just sensationalism, until Apple Music or Spotify decide to cut his music. I know BBC Radio has decided to boycott his music, but you can’t get rid of the music and how much it is engrained in society.
“In terms of record sales and his achievements, he will always be the King Of Pop. In terms of his reputation, I hope that people will see through what’s going through here. It wasn’t long ago when he was alive and people had an opportunity to actually see the facts and see him go through a criminal trial – which I would go by more so than this documentary.
I saw Michael on his Bad, Dangerous and History world tours. He’s an influence to everyone and in terms of separating his music from what he may or may not have done, I think you can do that because everyone has their own personal experiences.”
Sean O’Kane, a Michael Jackson superfan who previously campaigned outside his 2005 trial in California.
Why are you here today?
“It’s imperative that we support Michael and his legacy. This has been turned into some kind of glorified child abuse propaganda movie. We’re here as supporters against the injustice that Michael Jackson had to endure in his life and in his death. That’s the main reason why we’re here.
“Here’s what people need to know. The stories that they have told in this propaganda piece have changed so many times over the years. A judge tossed their claims out of court, so the public need to ask themselves which version of events they want to believe.
“Do they want to believe the story that is being told now, or do they want to believe their previous claims. Because it’s all there if you want to read it.”
Are you scared that it will damage his legacy?
“Listen, we’ve been here in 1993 and we’ve been here in 2005. People are acting like this is new, but we’ve been here before and Michael’s music is played more than any other artist alive. I mean, it’s preposterous to think that this will damage his long term legacy.
“It might take a knock, but what the fans demonstrate is that when Michael takes a knock we’re there to defend him. We’re there to smother the blanket of lies that this show is using to brainwash its viewers.
“We are all specks of dust and when we are all long gone, Michael’s legacy will live forever and ever. I know I will be on the right side of history and I’d rather fight to be on this side of history to secure Michael’s legacy.”
Another argument in defence of the documentary says that it wouldn’t be in two, two hour films if the allegations of Wade Robson and James Safechuck weren’t credible.
“Well they want to mug us for as long as possible and it’s all about money. The director Dan Reed has said that it isn’t a Michael Jackson film and Channel 4 have renamed it Leaving Neverland: Me and Michael Jackson. You know why? It’s because Michael Jackson sells.
“It premiered in the States only a few days ago and it flopped. It was a dud. It had less viewers than Bargain Hunt and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. They know they are not winning and that they have made a massive mistake with this.
“They did not see us coming to get rid of the virtual bullets that they want to brainwash the viewers with. I’ve seen the film and it’s a one-sided hit piece. Who wants to watch a glorified paedophilia hit piece?
“The saddest thing is that this is a complete mockery of real abuse victims and they are using and exploiting actual abuse victims and genuine survivors to sell a narrative in the name of money. That is absolutely heinous.
“Imagine a trial where one-sided facts are presented to the jury members and that’s exactly what this is. There’s no impartiality or objectivity, they could have interviewed people who said Michael didn’t do anything to them. They chose not to and they’re taking the public for a ride. It’s wrong and it’s why we’re here.”