After a British journalist revealed a significant discrepancy in HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” docuseries, Oprah Winfrey said she has “not wavered” and reaffirmed her support for the controversial film accusing the late pop star, Michael Jackson, of molesting young boys.
Winfrey made her comments during an appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” last Wednesday, where she was asked about recent developments that call the film’s credibility into question.
The primary conflict involves a claim made by James Safechuck, who said he was sexually abused by Jackson from 1988-1992, ending when he was 14-years-old. Safecheck alleged in the film that they “would have sex” at various locations on the musical icon’s California Neverland Valley Ranch, including inside the train station.
However, that facility reportedly had not yet been built at the time Safechuck said inappropriate interactions took place there.
“Leaving Neverland” director Dan Reed acknowledged Safechuck’s timeline of events is flawed but continued to defend his accusations, suggesting the alleged abuse continued into his postpubescent years. Meanwhile, critics say the inconsistencies that have arisen discredit central narratives in the film.
During Winfrey’s in-studio interview with Noah, she referenced her leadership academy for girls in South Africa while justifying her continued endorsement of “Leaving Neverland.”
Partial transcript as follows:
TREVOR NOAH: Did you ever waver in your beliefs when the documentary director came out and said there was a timeline issue?
OPRAH WINFREY: No, I have never wavered. I have not wavered. You know why I have not wavered? Because I have had girls at my school who were sexually assaulted and abused, and I have never won a case. And the reason I have never won a case is because when you put a girl on the witness stand and she can’t remember, was it Thursday or Wednesday, it’s automatically discredited. And so, when you’re in the midst of trauma, terrible things happening to you, you may not remember the exact time.
Winfrey also spoke of the intense backlash she has received since the documentary premiered more than a month ago, describing feedback from many displeased viewers as “hateration.”
The daytime TV legend attached herself to “Leaving Neverland” with a one-hour special which was broadcast immediately following the documentary’s HBO debut. “Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland” featured interviews with Safechuck and the film’s other accuser, Wade Robson, along with Reed, the director. It was taped in front of a crowd of more than 100 people who claimed to be victims of child sexual abuse and simulcast on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
HBO denied rumors that surfaced last week that said the premium cable channel had yanked “Leaving Neverland” from its lineup amid the train station controversy. The misinformation was first posted on a blog, then amplified by a Washington, D.C.-area radio station.
The film will remain in the network’s lineup through April 17, then will continue to be available for streaming on HBO On Demand, HBO Go and HBO Now.
According to HBO, part one of “Leaving Neverland” has been watched by 7.5 million viewers so far.
Winfrey has partnered with Britain’s Prince Harry to co-create and produce a mental health docuseries launching on Apple TV next year.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.