Oprah Winfrey is jumping into the debate around Leaving Neverland—a documentary detailing the late Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse of young boys—by interviewing two reported victims in a special to air immediately after the film’s prime-time debut.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim that the famous King of Pop sexually abused them when they befriended him through professional connections as young children. Although they first defended Jackson when allegations against him arose in the 1990s, Robson, now 36, and Safechuck, now 40, came forward with disturbing allegations a few years after Jackson’s death in 2009.
Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, details their stories. It first sparked outrage during its debut at January’s Sundance Film Festival and has since led Jackson’s estate to sue HBO, which plans to air the film, over what they call “reprehensible disparagement” of Jackson.
Jackson always maintained his innocence during life: he settled a 1993 lawsuit and was acquitted in a 2005 criminal trial. His family, who spoke with CBS This Morning about Leaving Neverland, claim Robson and Safechuck are lying for financial gains.
“It’s all about money,” said one of Jackson’s brothers, Marlon Jackson. “There has not been not one piece of evidence that corroborates their story. And they’re not interested in doing that.”
The documentary will be aired by HBO in two parts, at 8 p.m. next Sunday and Monday. At 10 p.m. on Monday, March 4, following part two’s end, Winfrey’s special will air on her network, OWN, as well as the various HBO platforms. The special, titled Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland, includes interviews with Robson and Safechuck.
Winfrey interviewed their alleged abuser in 1993, before any molestation allegations arose against Jackson, and has since seemed sympathetic towards him, Vanity Fair reports. “He’s very likable there, and I can tell you I really, really liked him,” she reportedly said years later. “After this interview, I thought I could be his friend because I felt that he was really honest.”