Michael Jackson's Family Speaks Out Against Sexual Abuse Allegations in New Documentary
Leaving Neverland, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, centers around claims from James Safechuck and Wade Robson
Michael Jackson‘s family is defending the late singer against allegations that surfaced in the documentary Leaving Neverland, one of the most buzzed-about films to debut at the Sundance Film Festival last month.
During an interview with CBS This Morning that aired on Wednesday, Jackson’s brothers, Tito, Marlon, and Jackie Jackson, as well as Jackson’s nephew, Taj Jackson, sat down with co-host Gayle King. All four said that they had not seen the documentary.
“I don’t care to see it,” Jackie, 67, said. “No, because I know my brother. I don’t have to see that documentary. I know Michael. I’m the oldest brother. I know my brother. I know what he stood for. What he was all about. Bringing the world together. Making kids happy. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Marlon, 61, claimed that Jackson was “never inappropriate” with children.
When King asked if they ever found it “odd” that Jackson would “share a bed or have slumber parties with young children,” Taj said no.
“I grew up in it, so for me it wasn’t odd,” Taj, 45, said. “You know, I think, to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I’m not oblivious to what it sounds like. But when you’re actually there in that atmosphere and you’re around it, and you’re watching movies, whether, with his kids, whether it’s Little Rascals or Three Stooges, and you’re watching these things, it’s like, it’s very innocent.”
“But I think, the fault on my uncle was he just, he didn’t have that bone in his body to look at it the other way,” he continued. “And I think that was the thing, is that his naiveté was his downfall in a way.”
Taj added that he believes Robson and Safechuck are only coming forward for “money”: “It’s always been about money,” he claimed. “I hate to say it. When it’s my uncle, it’s almost like they see a blank check.”
Robson and Safechuck are also slated to appear on CBS This Morning to talk with King on Thursday.
Jackson’s estate has filed a lawsuit against HBO over the planned broadcast of Leaving Neverland.
Two co-executors of Jackson’s estate and Optimum Productions are suing the network and its parent company, Time Warner, for $100 million, claiming that airing the two-part film will violate a non-disparagement clause, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
In the suit, the estate claims the film violates a clause in a 1992 contract, written up ahead of a televised concert that year — in which HBO agreed to not speak ill of Jackson.
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.”
In the lawsuit, the estate calls the HBO documentary a “posthumous character assassination,” violating the non-disparagement terms of the 1992 contract.
Leaving Neverland was one of the most buzzed-about films when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. A first look at the documentary was released last week, including chilling allegations by Robson and Safechuck.
Jackson’s estate issued a statement to PEOPLE in January ahead of the Sundance premiere and blasted the documentary (directed and produced by Dan Reed) as a “pathetic attempt” to make money off of the singer.
“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.”
The documentary’s director, however, rebuked these claims in a statement to PEOPLE. “Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of,” Reed said. “We feel no need to include the opinions of people with no direct knowledge of what happened to those individuals.”
Jackson was 50 years old when he was found dead on June 25, 2009, in his L.A. mansion. He is survived by his three children: Prince Michael, 22, Paris, 20, and 17-year-old “Blanket,” who now goes by Bigi.
Leaving Neverland premieres March 3 and 4 on HBO.