Michael Jackson’s family members have denounced a new documentary as “public lynching”.
In a statement, the family argued that the late singer is unable to defend himself against the sexual abuse allegations made by two men in Leaving Neverland, which premiered at the Sundance Film festival on Friday (January 25).
“Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family – that is the Jackson way,” part of the statement read.
“But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on…Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.”
The documentary film, which will be broadcast by HBO and Channel 4 this spring, features interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who allege that they were sexually abused by Michael as children in the ’90s.
The men previously sued Jackson’s estate but their lawsuit was dismissed in 2017.
Elsewhere in the statement, Jackson’s family said that they were angry at the press for helping publicise the documentary.
“We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity.”
Jackson’s nephew, Taj, has announced a crowdfunding campaign in order to release a documentary series that he says will tell the truth.
His “explosive” series will reveal how his uncle was “betrayed, entrapped, and extorted” throughout his life, and will dispute what Taj says are unsubstantiated posthumous abuse allegations against his uncle.
Meanwhile, Leaving Neverland viewers have responded to the ‘brutally upsetting’ allegations featured in the four-hour film.
One person wrote on Twitter: “Among the many, many disturbing revelations of #LeavingNeverland: MJ gave one of his young male victims jewelry in exchange for sexual acts, and even staged a mock wedding complete with vows and diamond ring. #Sundance2019”
Among the many, many disturbing revelations of #LeavingNeverland: MJ gave one of his young male victims jewelry in exchange for sexual acts, and even staged a mock wedding complete with vows and diamond ring. #Sundance2019
— Patrick Ryan (@PatRyanWrites) January 25, 2019
Another wrote: “Painful. Brutally upsetting. Triggering. My heart is incredibly broken. I’m sorry y’all. This hurts. Bad. #LeavingNeverland”
Dan Reed, the film’s director/producer, has said: “If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to.”
He added that the two men were courageous to air the allegations, of which Reed does not question “their validity.”