‘Leaving Neverland’ director Dan Reed attempted to refute a reported timeline discrepancy on Monday that has called his film’s credibility into question, but his efforts appeared to have backfired after his own source of information cried foul.
The primary controversy surrounding the HBO documentary involves an accusation by James Safechuck, who said the late global musical icon Michael Jackson molested him from 1988-1992, ending when he was 14 years old. He alleged they “would have sex” at various places on the singer’s California Neverland Valley Ranch, including inside its train station. However, that facility reportedly had not yet been built when Safechuck claimed sex crimes occurred there.
While Reed acknowledged Safechuck’s flawed timeline of events more than three weeks ago, the filmmaker changed course Monday morning, tweeting: “The train station – one of many Neverland locations where James Safechuck was abused – was already complete before the 1993 construction permit was approved, says Michael Jackson personal photographer Harrison Funk in an engagingly candid Jan. 2019 podcast.”
Funk quickly responded, accusing Reed of taking his words out of context to spread falsehoods about the deceased King of Pop.
You may try to twist public opinion of someone’s character who is no longer here to defend himself but you will not twist my words in defense of my friend
Remove your lies Dan.
— Harrison Funk (@harrisonfunk) April 22, 2019
“You may try to twist public opinion of someone’s character who is no longer here to defend himself but you will not twist my words in defense of my friend,” Funk wrote. “Remove your lies Dan.”
Reed’s post included a short clip from an episode of “The MJCast” where Funk had discussed a photo shoot he said took place at Neverland ranch in June 1994, nine months after the construction permit had reportedly been approved. In the podcast interview, Funk described the project as happening “when they built the train station.” He recalled Jackson asking him to refrain from taking pictures of the structure.
“Apparently, he didn’t want the train station photographed because he put it up without a permit, initially, and was fighting with the county about it being there,” Funk said in the excerpt circulated by Reed.
The British journalist who first reported the train station discrepancy re-posted photographic evidence to social media on Monday which he says proves that construction had not started as of August 1993, approximately a week before the building permit was approved, and after Safechuck said his sexual abuse had already ceased.
RE: Latest Dan Reed antics
Pic taken Aug 25 1993 by Steve Starr. No train station. Just spoken to Steve, he confirmed he flew over Neverland in Aug 1993. “That date is accurate. It may be a day or two after it was taken to allow time for processing & captioning color slide film” pic.twitter.com/qBcz7RCm97
— Mike Smallcombe (@mikesmallcombe1) April 22, 2019
John Branca, co-executor of the Jackson estate, spoke publicly for the first time about “Leaving Neverland” last week. He told Billboard magazine: “Those people made up a goddamn story because they wanted money and we will not allow that to go unchecked.”
Both Safechuck and the film’s other accuser, Wade Robson, have sued the estate for millions. According to a lawyer who represents both men, those cases were dismissed and are currently under appeal.
The estate filed a $100-million lawsuit against HBO earlier this year alleging the cable network had breached an earlier non-disparagement agreement with Jackson. Billboard wrote that “Branca said he and the estate’s lawyers are now considering legal action directly against Reed, although he was not specific about what grounds he had for litigation.”
The New York Post’s “Page Six” column recently reported that Jackson’s children are “quietly investigating” Safechuck and Robson in preparation for an upcoming lawsuit “for fraud, emotional distress, slander and misrepresentation.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.