In new documentary Leaving Neverland, two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, claim Michael Jackson sexually abused them over a number of years. Directed by Dan Reed, it explores the accusations at great length and hears testimonies from Robson, Safechuck and their friends and families.
As it aired in the UK this week, Taj Jackson, Michael’s nephew, and a member of the ’90s pop group T3, flew to the country in an attempt to defend Michael Jackson’s legacy and discredit the new documentary, adamant that the testimonies featured in Leaving Neverland are completely fabricated.
NME: How is the Jackson family taking the Leaving Neverland documentary?
Taj Jackson: “I just think we’re all dealing with it differently. I can tell you his children are taking it really bad. I’m taking it just as bad because I spent thousands of hours with him. It’s almost like it’s my dad in a way. You have to ask yourself this: if you had a family member and they were getting accused of something after they passed how angry would you be? How much would you fight knowing the truth?”
Do you have any plans to sue anyone involved in the making of the documentary, whether that be director Dan Reed or the accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck?
“It’s hard because you can’t defend the dead so people feel like they can say whatever they like about him and it doesn’t even need to be proven. You don’t have to use words like alleged anymore. I’ve seen headlines where it’s like: ‘Michael Jackson was a paedophile,’ or, ‘Michael Jackson was a monster.’ You used to have to use the word alleged and this is really sad for me to see. Major publications with respected journalists that I grew up with are saying these things.”
And this is based solely on watching the new documentary?
“Yes. And there’s no new evidence. It’s a story. And I’m not saying people shouldn’t look into accusations, this is a serious accusation. There should just be some facts. There should be some credibility.”
Were you asked to appear or be interviewed for it?
“No, they didn’t ask us. They didn’t ask others. They didn’t ask anyone. They didn’t give anyone that courtesy.”
Do you yourself think that Michael’s relationships with children were inappropriate?
“Here’s the thing, as an adult out of the bubble I can see how society thinks that. My uncle was – and this might sound arrogant – but my uncle was too good for the world. My uncle had a pure heart.
“My uncle was the one who when Ryan White was diagnosed with HIV and his school wouldn’t let him go to school took him to Neverland for two weeks. That was my uncle. Or Dave Dave, the burn victim. My uncle had him over and befriended him his whole life. That was Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson cared about people.”
But if you step outside of the Jackson bubble and look in you can understand, right?
“As a normal person in the outside world I agree one hundred percent. But we didn’t live that life.”
Didn’t you, or any of the Jackson family, ever think, ‘Right, we need to have an intervention,’ especially once the allegations started?
“That’s exactly what happened after the trial. We said to him: ‘You have plenty of family members. You have plenty of nieces and nephews.’ And he agreed. And that’s why after the trial in 2005 it was all family.
“But at the same time, with Gavin [Arvizo], he was a kid that had cancer and when it comes to people who are dying my uncle couldn’t let someone die like that. I asked him about Gavin and he said to me, ‘I could not let that kid die.’ He had cancer at the time he met Michael Jackson. He doesn’t have cancer anymore but he had cancer and a lot of people forget that and I think that was my uncle’s Achilles heel. He felt – just like he did with Ryan White – he felt like he had to be there for these people.”
The first time Michael faced child sex abuse allegations was in 1993 involving Jordy Chandler. He settled the case out of court. Why?
“I was with Michael on the ‘Dangerous’ tour in Bangkok when the allegations hit. We saw it unfold. We saw the American media take it and run with it. But the settlement was for the civil case not the criminal case.
“Usually the criminal case would go before the civil case but in my uncle’s case they were going to allow the civil case to go before the criminal case. It’s almost like if you have a football team and it’s the World Cup and you get to see the team practice before they play the game. So it was like an unfair advantage.
“So he settled the civil case so he could be ready to fight the criminal case, which is obviously more important because it’s the one you can go to jail for.”
So why have we never seen anything about the criminal case, only that he settled a case?
“Because they didn’t have any evidence, they only had a kid’s word. And once Jordy’s father got the money he didn’t care about the criminal case.
“They kept it open for months looking for something but they didn’t have anything. And here’s the thing, nothing prevented Jordy from testifying in the criminal case so it wasn’t hush money. He could have so easily testified in 1994 and in 2005.”
Is there documentation that supports this?
“Yes! This is stuff that has been in the ether of the world for 20 years. My uncle was under a gag order so he couldn’t talk about it. He famously did announce his innocence on a Diane Sawyer thing and then Jordy’s father, Evan Chandler, tried to sue him for it. Nothing happened after that because he had an NDA.
“And also, speaking of that 1993 case there’s that thing about the kid’s description.”
You mean Jordy’s description of Michael’s penis, when he is said to have drawn a picture of it and the markings on it matched photographs of Michael’s penis taken by investigators?
“Yes. What people don’t know was he drew a circumcised penis. Michael Jackson wasn’t circumcised. Michael Jackson was uncircumcised.”
So why has that not found its way into the public domain?
“It was after he died actually, it became unsealed. The problem is that when the civil case was still happening the prosecution fought to keep that out of the evidence because it hurt them. You mean to tell me a kid that supposedly slept with Michael Jackson many times didn’t know what Michael Jackson’s penis looked like, he didn’t know what a uncircumcised penis looked like?”
How do you respond to people who now say they can’t listen to his music and the radio stations who have started to ban Michael’s music?
“This is nothing new for us. In Germany, when the trial was going on, they banned Jackson music, not even just Michael Jackson music. So [3T] were banned and Janet [Jackson] was banned. So I think there was a natural reaction to punish everyone.
“But why I’m saying that is my uncle’s already gone through the system and my uncle’s already been declared not guilty. My uncle’s already had a 10-year FBI investigation. It’s so unfair to convict him now off of a one-sided documentary, literally one-sided.”
It’s being reported that you’re making your own documentary about Michael. Will it address the allegations or will it be a Michael Jackson puff piece?
“No, there’s load of those already. It’s going to start off with the 1993 allegations because I think that’s where everything started. So it’s going to start there. It’s going to talk about the settlement in terms of the civil suit and why he settled. At one point he was very against settling and angry and then gave in. So why did he do that? So it’s going to talk about all of that.
“So 1993/1994 to 2005 are the big parts of his life. So this is not going to be a puff piece. it’s not going to be, ‘Oh, let’s show Michael Jackson the humanitarian.’ This is about exposing all the things that have been mustering for 20, 30 years, you know?”
Are you going to be fair and unbiased?
“I’m gonna go with the facts.”
Are you going to interview anyone who has previously accused Michael of any wrongdoings?
“If I can find them then one hundred percent. Jordy Chandler would be the biggest one for me. But people have already tried to reach out to him but he’s fled somewhere. I would be honoured because his father was the one who put him up to [accusing Michael]. He didn’t want to do any of it and originally even said nothing had happened. So I would be willing to do that, and with Gavin too.”
You did an interview recently where you were asked whether the incentive to defend your uncle’s legacy had something to do with you benefiting from his royalties. You denied that. But what about the song ‘Why’ that you did with Michael as part of 3T, surely you get royalties from that?
“I shouldn’t say this but we’ve not made a cent from Sony. I haven’t made a cent from Sony for our 3T career in that way. We owe money to Sony.”
“Because our second album never came out and we spent a lot of money on it. So we’re in the hole in that way and in Sony’s eyes.”
You still owe them money now?
“Yeah, after three million albums sold. We could sell five million copies of ‘Why’ and we’re not going to see a cent of it. But it does affect us because I have kids and they have to go to school. I have a career still. My father obviously still has a career. So yes the legacy of Michael Jackson does affect us and it does affect us financially to a degree, but it’s not the way people think it affects us.”
So you’re not making any money from doing what you’re doing in defending your uncle’s legacy?
“No. If I did then my life would be a lot different. A lot different.”