Michael Jackson's Estate Slams Leaving Neverland's Outstanding Documentary Emmy Win
HBO’s controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, which chronicles the longtime allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Michael Jackson, picked up the award for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special at Saturday’s Creative Arts Emmys — a prize the King of Pop’s estate quickly criticized.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE after the win, a spokesperson slammed Emmy voters for their decision.
“For a film that is a complete fiction to be honored in a nonfiction Emmy category is a complete farce,” the Jackson estate said. “Not one shred of proof supports this completely one-sided, so-called documentary which was made in secrecy and for which not one person outside of the two subjects and their families were interviewed.”
Leaving Neverland details allegations from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
Both claim Jackson befriended them when they were children and that their relationships quickly turned sexual. Safechuck, who met Jackson when he was cast in the star’s 1986 Pepsi commercial, claims Jackson taught him how to masturbate, while Robson, who met Jackson when he was just 5 years old, says the star performed oral sex on him and kissed him.
“You and I were brought together by God. We were meant to be together,” Robson claims Jackson told him. “This is how we show love.”
They also allege that they were instructed by the star to cover their tracks, with Robson claiming Jackson told him they would “go to jail for the rest of our lives” if anyone found out about their alleged sexual encounters.
Jackson’s family has repeatedly denied all allegations put forth in Leaving Neverland, and said in a January statement the film was “another rehash of dated and discredited allegations,” calling it “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
Two co-executors of the singer’s estate and Optimum Productions also sued HBO and its parent company, Time Warner, for $100 million in February, claiming that the network’s decision to air Leaving Neverland violated a non-disparagement clause, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, HBO responded: “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland. … This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Finding Neverland‘s director Dan Reed, 54, has stood by Robson and Safechuck’s claims — telling reporters backstage at Saturday’s Emmys that the depth and tone of their recollections had led him to believe them.
In his acceptance speech, he also praised them both.
“None of this would have been possible without the incredible courage and determination of Wade and James and their families, and I wanted to salute that,” Reed said, according to Deadline. “This is one of the first times we’ve been able to shine light on child sexual abuse….the pattern of how it unfolds is not an easy story to tell….it often remains undisclosed for so many decades, so I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
—REPORTING BY Jordan Runtagh