Oprah Winfrey is leading the cultural shift in the wake of "Leaving Neverland," an explosive documentary that alleges pop icon Michael Jackson sexually abused young boys throughout his long and fruitful career as an entertainer.
Speaking with Jackson's two main accusers on her OWN network — Wade Robson and James Safechuck — Winfrey said that the fallout over the documentary "transcends Michael Jackson" and she hoped it will open a broader conversation about sexual abuse. The interview, "Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland," also featured other sexual abuse survivors, like actor Anthony Edwards of "ER."
"I know people all over the world are going to be in an uproar and debating whether or not Michael Jackson did these things and whether these two men are lying or not lying. But for me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson," Winfrey said. "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. . . . If it gets you, our audience, to see how it happens, then some good would have come of it."
"Here’s the reason why I am here: In 25 years of ‘The Oprah [Winfrey] Show, I taped 217 episodes on sexual abuse," Winfrey said, according to Fox News. "I tried and tried and tried to get the message across to people that sexual abuse was not just abuse, it was also sexual seduction."
"And it’s happening right now and it’s happening with families. We know it’s happening in churches and in schools and sports teams everywhere. So, if it gets you, our audience, to see how it happens, then some good would have come of it," she concluded. "I hope we can get past Michael Jackson, the icon. Stop staring into the sun and do what is necessary to heal our children and heal ourselves."
At one point in the interview, Oprah asked Michael Jackson's accuser, Wade Robson, if he thought what he experienced was abuse when Michael Jackson molested him.
"As young boys, these two men did not feel abuse until much later on in life," Winfrey explained. "Were you thinking about it as abuse then? Did you know you were being abused, and you were just defending Michael?"
"From night one of the abuse, of the sexual stuff that Michael did to me, he told me it was love," Robson said. "He told me that he loved me and God brought us together. … Anything Michael would say to me was gospel."
Safechuck echoed that sentiment: "Michael drilled in you, ‘If you’re caught, we’re caught, your life is over, my life is over.’ It’s repeated over and over again, it’s drilled into your nervous system. It takes a lot of work to sort through that."
Oprah received significant criticism from some of Jackson's die-hard fans on social media for agreeing to interview Safechuck and Robson.
"So many in media, inc @Oprah, blindly taking #LeavingNeverland at face value, shaping a narrative uninterested in facts, proof, credibility," wrote Jermaine Jackson on Twitter. "We faced similar 'graphic' claims + trial-by-media in '05. Jury saw through it all. Trial-by-law proved Michael's innocence long ago. Fact."
Another Twitter user said: "I'm done with Oprah but she's going to get dragged internationally. I'll worry about Queen Sugar and Greenleaf later. I can't believe this is happening, I never thought I would #muteoprah."