Michael Jackson’s relatives are lashing out at an HBO documentary which they say withholds relevant information and presents a one-sided narrative of the sexual abuse allegations made against the late, international pop icon several years after his death.
Leaving Neverland is a two-part, four-hour-long film that details graphic molestation accusations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom filed lawsuits against the Jackson estate and are represented by the same attorney. Its credibility relies solely on their personal testimonies and interviews with their family members. The filmmaker, Dan Reed, has been criticized for neglecting to provide outside perspectives and broader context.
In an interview broadcast last weekend, Michael Jackson’s niece, Brandi Jackson, revealed that she dated Robson for more than seven years, including part of the time period that his alleged molestation took place. She described her uncle’s accuser as a dishonest opportunist, claiming, “he’s just after money.”
“He’s got this self-awareness, in almost an egocentric sort of way, narcissistic sort of way,” Brandi told John Ziegler, host of the weekly podcast The World According to Zig. “If he wants something he’s going to go after it and he’s going to get it.”
Brandi, 37, and Robson, 36, were born seven months apart in 1982. According to Brandi, their relationship was orchestrated by her uncle after Robson “had developed a crush” on her. She recalled that their romance began as puppy love between two 12-year-olds, evolved to semi-platonic during most of their teenage years, before Robson eventually took her virginity.
“I did not have sex with Wade until I was just about 18 years old,” Brandi said, explaining she ended their relationship “around 2000 or 2001” after discovering that Robson had cheated on her with multiple women, including singer Britney Spears.
During the nearly hour-long conversation with Ziegler, Brandi said that media outlets such as ABC’s Good Morning America had canceled interviews with her before the documentary’s premiere. She speculated that her role in Robson’s life had been “intentionally” excluded from the film to avoid discrediting his allegations.
Partial transcript as follows:
ZIEGLER: “Do you believe that (Wade) was sexually abused by Michael Jackson?”
BRANDI: “Absolutely not. He was not sexually abused by my uncle.”
ZIEGLER: “And how sure are you of that?”
BRANDI: “100 percent.”
ZIEGLER: “On what do you base that?”
BRANDI: “I base it, one, on my uncle. I know that he would never do the things that Wade is claiming... And two, I know Wade. I know him, and I know his behavior. I knew him in the midst of all of this. I do know that Wade is a liar and he is a manipulator, but he was not abused. His behavior has never indicated anything of the sort. And that’s also why his mother and his family, nobody ever suspected anything, and they were always fine with allowing him to be around Michael. They were there too. There was nothing inappropriate happening to make anybody feel uncomfortable.
After a lethal combination of medications in Michael Jackson’s system resulted in his 2009 death, Robson credited his relationship with the King of Pop as “one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of humankind.”
Robson had testified on Jackson’s behalf in 1993, when the singer was first accused of molesting children, and again in Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial, reiterating that Jackson had never sexually abused him.
However, in 2013 Robson said he had been lying for twenty years to cover up for Jackson. He filed a lawsuit against the Jackson estate claiming he had been molested during a seven-year stretch, which allegedly began when Robson was just seven years old.
“I was completely shocked,” Brandi told Ziegler. “It was like being hit with a bat from the left side. This wasn’t something that I saw coming.”
“Everyone was aware of how much Wade adored my uncle, how close they were as friends and how much my uncle had done for him as a mentor and a business associate.”
Brandi went on to suggest that Robson’s sudden change of heart might have had something to do with his choreography career descending into a downward spiral soon after Jackson passed away.
As Forbes recently reported:
In 2011, Robson approached John Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate, about directing the new Michael Jackson/Cirque du Soleil production, ONE. Robson admitted he wanted the job “badly,” but the Estate ultimately chose someone else for the position.
In 2012, Robson had a nervous breakdown, triggered, he said, by an obsessive quest for success. His career, in his words, began to “crumble.” That same year, with Robson’s career, finances, and marriage in peril, he began shopping a book that claimed he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson. No publisher picked it up.
In 2013, Robson filed a $1.5 billion dollar civil lawsuit/creditor’s claim, along with James Safechuck, who also spent time with Jackson in the late ‘80s. Safechuck claimed he only realized he may have been abused when Robson filed his lawsuit. That lawsuit was dismissed by a probate court in 2017.
According to Vince Finaldi, who represents Robson and Safechuck, both suits are currently under appeal.
The Forbes article went on to state that Leaving Neverland’s director “acknowledged not wanting to interview other key figures because it might complicate or compromise the story he wanted to tell.”
The two co-executors of the Jackson estate, along with Optimum Productions, filed a lawsuit last month against HBO and its parent company, Time Warner, claiming the cable network breached an agreement not to disparage the late singer. The suit says damages could exceed $100 million.
Listen to Brandi Jackson’s full interview with Ziegler here:
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.