The explosive HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” centering around the accusations of two former boy companions of Michael Jackson who say that he sexually abused them when they were children has triggered an international debate over the deceased pop star — with reports of stations dropping his songs from their playlists, Oprah interviewing his accusers, and pundits weighing in on the issue. But how is the public responding to the accusations in the documentary?
While response on social media is certainly not a scientifically sound way to gauge widespread reaction, it does give insight into what arguments some of the more passionate fans and critics of Jackson are floating in the public sphere. In the case of Jackson, the debate raging online is as polarized as you get, with die-hard fans presenting him in almost saint-like fashion while others argue the evidence makes clear he was a monster. First, a few deeply disturbing “undeniable facts” about the case detailed by Maureen Orth in a recent piece for Vanity Fair:
- There is no dispute that, at age 34, Michael Jackson slept more than 30 nights in a row in the same bed with 13-year-old Jordie Chandler at the boy’s house with Chandler’s mother present. He also slept in the same bed with Jordie Chandler at Chandler’s father’s house. …
- So far, five boys Michael Jackson shared beds with have accused him of abuse: Jordie Chandler, Jason Francia, Gavin Arvizo, Wade Robson, and Jimmy Safechuck. …
- Michael Jackson suffered from the skin discoloration disease vitiligo. Jordie Chandler drew a picture of the markings on the underside of Jackson’s penis. His drawings were sealed in an envelope. A few months later, investigators photographed Jackson’s genitalia. The photographs matched Chandler’s drawings. ….
- Jackson had an extensive collection of adult erotic material he kept in a suitcase next to his bed, including S&M bondage photos and a study of naked boys. Forensic experts with experience in the Secret Service found the fingerprints of boys alongside Jackson’s on the same pages. Jackson also had bondage sculptures of women with ball gags in their mouths on his desk, in full view of the boys who slept there.
The hallway leading to Jackson’s bedroom also had extensive monitoring devices to warn him if someone approached, Jackson’s wife Debbie Rowe told authorities she never had sex with him, and Jackson paid millions to settle the Chandlers’ lawsuit.
As for the evidence undermining the credibility of his most prominent accuser, Wade Robson, Joe Vogel writes in a piece for Forbes that Robson at 24 “testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial (as an adult) that nothing sexual ever happened between them.” A year after Robson was turned down by the co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate about directing the new Michael Jackson/Cirque du Soleil production, ONE, in 2011, he suffered a nervous breakdown, “triggered, he said, by an obsessive quest for success,” Vogel reports. That year he began “shopping a book that claimed he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson,” but no publisher would pick 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.”
The documentary addresses those details by underscoring the deep psychological trauma both Robson and Safechuck allegedly suffered as children at the hands of Jackson.
Below is a sample of recent responses to the accusations against the star online, including full-throated defenses and disgusted condemnations.
Defenses of Jackson:
And here’s Jackson’s never before aired interview in 1999 with Piers Morgan that one die-hard defender suggests explains Jackson’s obsession with children:
Condemnations of Jackson: