Ten years after dying from a drug overdose a court later ruled involuntary manslaughter, Michael Jackson is back in the news because of Leaving Neverland.
The documentary is about two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom accuse Michael of sexual abuse as children. The Jackson Estate condemned the film as a “tabloid character assassination,” but in spite of legal threats from the estate’s attorneys, HBO still intends to show the four-hour documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
In fact, it now appears that HBO is prioritizing the film.
When Jackson died on June 25, 2009, ratings proved that more than 31 million people watched live TV coverage of his funeral, more than anyone except Princess Diana. In the wake of his death, Michael Jackson: This Is It, made from rehearsal footage of a planned concert tour the singer’s death preemptively ended, grossed more than $260 million against a $60 million budget, showing there was still interest in him.
Even today, Jackson’s music has never gone away. However, HBO and Sundance have given the allegations of child abuse and pedophilia a second hearing in the wake of the Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein sex scandals and the rise of #MeToo.
Jackson’s first bout with the law occurred in 1993 when Evan Chandler, father of then-13-year-old Jordan Chandler, accused him of inappropriately touching his son.
Despite being cleared of all counts without a trial, Jackson did go to trial in 2005, two years after Martin Bashir’s now-infamous Living With Michael Jackson TV special, for the alleged sexual abuse of cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo. Jackson was acquitted, and one of the witnesses for the defense was Wade Robson.
Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Jackson Estate, said in a letter that Robson and Safechuck were “two admitted perjurers“, thus harming their credibility and by proxy that of HBO’s documentary.
HBO stands by the film and plans to air it in two parts on March 3 and 4.