Immediately following the second half of HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary was a much-anticipated interview between Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson’s accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, as well as the film’s director, Dan Reed. The special aired on Monday evening, with an intimate group of sexual abuse survivors in the studio audience—including #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke.
Understandably, Oprah had several of the same questions that had been stirring in viewers’ minds while watching the documentary, many of which have been expressed on social media. One of the biggest questions concerned Robson’s choice to defend Jackson prior to now.
“I didn’t think about it, as far as that concept. ... I couldn’t even go there, I couldn’t even question Michael,” Robson said, when asked about his previous testimony defending Jackson. “If I was to question Michael and my story with Michael—my life with Michael—it would mean I would have to question everything in my life. It wasn’t even an option to think about it,” he added.
As mentioned in Leaving Neverland, that perspective shifted when Robson became father to a young son of his own. Corroborating Robson’s account, Safechuck reiterated the stakes the two were against as children.
“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,” Safechuck claimed. “It takes a lot of work to sort through that.”
“So when all the fans and the estate, and all the anger—you guys gonna get it, you know that, right? Y’all gonna get it, I’m gonna get it, we’re all gonna get it,” Oprah concluded. “We’re gonna get it. So are you prepared for that?”
But director Reed continued to defend his choice not to include Jackson’s family, instead centering his accusers. Robson claimed to have received death threats for coming forward. “This is a film that’s not about Jackson. It’s about what happened to Wade and James,” Reed said. “[The estate has] a financial, vested interest in smearing and discrediting these men.”
To wrap things up, Oprah provided more context for the bigger picture and the general issues our society still has around sexual abuse, expressing my own sentiment of the documentary.
“The story is bigger than—as I said in the beginning, it’s bigger than any one person. And don’t let any person in your world make it just about what Michael Jackson did or did not do,” she noted. “It’s about this thing, this insidious pattern that’s happening in our culture that we refuse to look at.”
In the special, Oprah also read from Jackson’s estate’s statement, which has referred to Leaving Neverland as a “public lynching.” The estate is suing HBO for $100 million.
“If people are turning away in droves from other very famous people and their work, is the same thing going to happen to Michael Jackson?” Los Angeles lawyer, Adam Streisand, who does not represent the Jackson estate, asked in the Washington Post. “Clearly the estate thinks so.”