The director of Leaving Neverland continues to defend the film against a biographer’s claims that his newfound evidence could disprove some of the child sexual abuse allegations levelled at Michael Jackson by Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
Mike Smallcombe, a British journalist and the author of Making Michael, said that he uncovered historic testimony by Robson’s mother that contradicts Robson’s allegations detailed in Leaving Neverland. Smallcombe also claims that a part of Safechuck’s allegation is inconsistent with facts surrounding the construction of Jackson’s Neverland’s train station.
Speaking to the Mirror Online on Friday (March 29), Smallcombe made reference to the fact that Robson said the abuse started when his family went to the Grand Canyon and he stayed behind with Jackson at Neverland. But Smallcombe claims that Robson’s mother, Joy, told a court under oath in 1993 that Robson actually joined them on them trip.
“His mother, Joy Robson, testified under oath in a deposition in 1993/1994 in relation to the Jordie Chandler case that Wade had actually gone with them on that trip to the Grand Canyon, before the entire family returned to Neverland for the second time the following weekend,” Smallcombe said.
“Joy Robson had no reason to lie about this; she openly admitted that Wade stayed with Jackson alone on other occasions.
“She could have said, ‘Wade stayed behind with Michael when we went away to the Grand Canyon between weekends’, it wouldn’t have made a difference.”
Last week (March 30) Smallcombe again told the Mirror that part of Safechuck’s testimony cannot be true.
Safechuck claimed in his 2014 lawsuit against Jackson’s Estate that he was abused from 1988 until 1992, when he was 14. The alleged victim, now 41, said that he was abused in an upstairs room in Neverland’s train station.
But Smallcombe also uncovered permits that show that the train station was approved for construction on September 2 1993. “The deficiency in Safechuck’s story is this,” he said. “Construction on Neverland’s train station didn’t start until the latter part of 1993, and it didn’t open until the first part of 1994, when Safechuck was 16.
“So abuse in the train station wasn’t possible if the abuse stopped in 1992, as he claims in his testimony, as it didn’t even exist then. There’s a two year difference.”
Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed then responded on Twitter, admitting that there must be truth in the construction of the station – but adding that he stood by Safechuck’s abuse claims, but not their dates.
“Yeah, there seems to be no doubt about the station date,” wrote Reed. “The date they have wrong is the end of the abuse.”
In an additional statement to NME, Reed said that these documents did not clash with the claims made in the film as sexual abuse is still alleged to have occurred after the construction of the train station – which is depicted in Leaving Neverland.
“James Safechuck was present at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch both before and after the construction of the train station there. The two still photographs of the train station shown in the documentary were taken by Safechuck and provided to the film-maker by him. Safechuck’s testimony in the film is that he was abused by Jackson in multiple places over several years, into his teens.”
Responding to a number of stories on Twitter, Reed further denied that there was a “U-Turn” in the claims, and declared that the evidence still supports the allegations made in the film as the alleged abuse occurred both before and after the construction of the train station.
“1. James Safechuck was at Neverland both before and after the construction of the train station there,” wrote Reed. “The two still photos of the station shown in #leavingneverland were in fact taken by James, who is very clear that he was abused by Jackson in multiple places over many years.”
He added: “2. #leavingneverland also makes clear that sexual contact between James and #MichaelJackson continued until James Safechuck was in his teenage years. The station at Neverland is just one of the many locations where James remembers sexual activity taking place.”
Responding to Reed’s comments with The Mirror, Smallcombe described his comments as “embarrassing”.
“Because the story has been debunked, it appears Reed is now suddenly wanting to change Safechuck’s timeline himself,” he said. “Firstly, I’m shocked that he’s spoken on Safechuck’s behalf. And secondly, it’s embarrassing that he feels he has to now change the narrative of the film – which is that the alleged abuse stopped in 1992 – all because part of it has been disproved.
He continued: “That’s what happens when you take allegations like that at face value, and make no attempts to scrutinise and investigate whether they are true.”
Speaking to NME, Smallcombe added: “These are two extremely detailed and key stories in the documentary – especially in the case of Wade Robson – which have been provably fabricated.
“And while this doesn’t categorically rule out that Jackson abused them, it does make you wonder, if they’ve fabricated these stories, what about the rest?”
Smallcombe explained why he feels compelled to research the allegations against Jackson.
“The whole idea behind doing this research is to offer the balance that wasn’t there in the first place, firstly in the documentary, which made no attempt to investigate whether the pair’s allegations are indeed true, or to challenge two people who are after hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “The documentary violated all norms and ethics in filmmaking and journalism.
“The media coverage around the documentary has also been atrocious, with reporters just regurgitating articles and not bothering to research the other side of the story. They are probably wary of how it might affect their reputations. But journalism is about seeking the truth, at any cost,” he said.
Elsewhere, the director of the HBO/Channel 4-broadcasted documentary Leaving Neverland has hit out at Jackson’s estate for calling his accusers liars, stating that “this argument falls apart”.
In a recent piece for The Guardian, Dan Reed wrote about the criticism against Robson as he previously defended Jackson under oath during his 2004 trial.
“Wade states in my film that he had perjured himself because he could not bear to see Jackson, the man he loved, go to jail,” he wrote.
Explaining that “telling the truth was out of the question” for Robson at the time, he added: “He had never told a soul, not even his mother. So the Jackson camp now call him an admitted liar. This argument falls apart when you apply even the merest dusting of common sense.
“Was he lying then? Or is he lying now? You can’t have it both ways.”
Reed admitted in a Q&A at Sundance Film Festival that he did not give the Jackson estate, nor his friends or associates, a right of reply while making the film.
The Jackson estate has denied all allegations against the late star. During his lifetime, Jackson also denied all the claims made against him.