Oprah Winfrey Has No Regrets for Supporting Leaving Neverland: 'I Was Shaken by It'
"I don't regret it. I saw it, and I was shaken by it," Winfrey said of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland
The 65-year-old media mogul — who stood by two men accusing Michael Jackson of sexual abuse in an interview special that aired immediately following the HBO film — shut down her haters in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I don’t regret it,” Winfrey said. “I saw it, and I was shaken by it. I wasn’t even shaken by the fact that it was Michael Jackson, I was shaken by the fact that [director] Dan Reed had done a really good job of showing the pattern, and for years, I had been trying to show people the pattern.”
She continued, “I’d been trying to say it’s not about the moment, it’s about the seduction. The first thing I said to Gayle [King] when we watched it was, ‘Gayle, you’ve got to get those guys [on CBS This Morning].”
Winfrey, who focused on shedding a light on sexual assault during her time on The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1986 to 2011, said she “knew that people were going to be triggered” by the documentary.
“I knew that there would be people who would be re-traumatized by it and would see themselves in it, and I thought, ‘I can help thread the needle of what is actually happening here.'”
As for the backlash she experienced for interviewing Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the former talk show host said she hadn’t experienced that much vitriol since she appeared on Ellen DeGeneres‘ 1997sitcom Ellen, in which she came out publicly.
“It made me think, ‘Thank goodness Ellen’s coming out was before social media because can you imagine?'” Winfrey said, adding people on Twitter claimed she was “a disgrace to the race” for interviewing Robson and Safechuck.
RELATED VIDEO: Inside Neverland: All the Ways Michael Jackson’s Kid-Friendly Ranch Allegedly Hid His Abuse of Boys
“Yeah, the whole race,” she said of the backlash on Twitter. “I decided, you know what? This isn’t going to be healthy for me, so I just didn’t engage with it.”
The Jackson family has filed a lawsuit against HBO and in a CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King the singer’s brothers, Tito, Marlon, and Jackie Jackson, as well as Jackson’s nephew, Taj Jackson — denounced the film and Robson and Safechuck’s claims.
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” the statement read. “Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception’, filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed.”
Winfrey taped a special with Jackson’s accusers and Reed on Feb. 27, less than a week before Leaving Neverland aired on HBO on March 4.
“I know people all over the world are gonna be in an uproar and debating whether or not Michael Jackson did these things or not, did he do it or not do it, whether these two men are lying or not lying,” Winfrey said during the taping of the special Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland.
RELATED VIDEO: Inside Michael Jackson’s 2005 Molestation Trial — and Why He Was Found Not Guilty
She continued, “But for me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person. This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption. It’s like a scourge on humanity and it’s happening right now. It’s happening in families.”
“We’re all gonna get it, I’m gonna get it, we’re all gonna get it,” she said, before adding that people are going to say to her, ‘You’re letting the black man down.’”
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, HBO said, “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”