Oprah Winfrey to Interview Michael Jackson's Accusers in HBO and OWN Special
The special will premiere following the two-night premiere of Leaving Neverland on HBO
In the documentary, set to premiere on HBO this weekend, Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, allege Jackson molested them as boys. Leaving Neverland garnered significant buzz upon its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last month, and will be broadcast on HBO in two parts airing this coming Sunday and Monday.
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.”
Winfrey’s interview with Robson and Safechuck will come 26 years after the host, 65, famously sat down with Jackson in February 1993 for a live interview that pulled in more than 90 million viewers, according to Oprah.com. Five months later, in August 1993, accusations that Jackson had molested then 13-year-old Jordan Chandler were made public.
The chat broached topics previously avoided by Jackson, including his difficulties in balancing a normal childhood with his skyrocketing career, as well as his troubled and allegedly abusive relationship with father Joe Jackson.
Winfrey’s hour-long special with Jackson’s accusers will be called Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland, and will debut simultaneously on HBO and OWN following the end of Leaving Neverland’s two-night HBO premiere.
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The audience will reportedly include survivors of sexual abuse.
Leaving Neverland has drawn criticism from members of Jackson’s family, including his brothers Tito, 65, Marlon, 61, and Jackie, who emphatically deny any allegations of abuse.
The trio, joined by Jackson’s nephew Taj Jackson, sat down with Winfrey’s close friend Gayle King Wednesday on CBS This Morning to discuss their problems with the film, which they said they have not seen.
“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.”
Taj Jackson, 45, noted that he believed Robson and Safechuck were only coming forward to receive a payday.
“It’s always been about money,” he told King. “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.
The King of Pop’s estate has filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO over its planned broadcast of the documentary, alleging it violates a non-disparagement clause from a 1992 contract.
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.”
Jackson died in 2009 at age 50, leaving behind three children: Prince Michael, 22, Paris, 20, and “Blanket,” 17, who now goes by Bigi.