Fight Between Michael Jackson's Estate And HBO Is Quickly Escalating

Chris Mottram 10 Feb 2019

Michael Jackson's estate is not happy with the forthcoming HBO documentary about the singer's life.

Leaving Neverland

Giphy | BFMTV

Leaving Neverland is an HBO documentary in which two men who are now in the 30s detail their claims of sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson. The film is nearly four hours long and is causing controversy.

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A Letter

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Jackson estate lawyer Howard Weitzman sent a 10-page letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler. In it, he calls the film “an admittedly one-sided, sensationalist program" while attempting to discredit Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the two men who claim abuse in the movie.

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Monetary Gain

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Weitzman points to lawsuits filed separately by Robson and Safechuck in 2013 and 2014, both of which were dismissed but are being appealed. He claims that the men are using the film to bolster their legal cases and achieve a monetary gain.

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Family History

Unsplash | Austin Ban

Robson claims to of had nervous breakdowns in 2011 and 2012 as a result of the abuse by Jackson. Weitzman claims those were actually the result of his family's history of suicidal depression.

“Robson’s father committed suicide in 2002. Robson’s first cousin on his father’s side committed suicide in 2012. Unfortunately, major depression is a very heritable disease. Thus, it is no surprise that Robson had these breakdowns.”

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HBO Fights Back

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HBO is standing by the documentary, and will air it in two parts on March 3 and 4. The network says director Dan Reed "carefully documented these survivors’ accounts," and "people should reserve judgment until they see the film."

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'Public Lynching'

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The Jackson family has been upset about the film since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last month. They called it a "public lynching" and said Jackson is completely innocent of all allegations.

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Director Responds

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Director Dan Reed responded to the Jackson family claims that the film is one-sided:

"What is the other side of the story? That there were people that Michael did not abuse? … If they’re saying, ‘You should’ve interviewed people who were not abused by Michael Jackson,’ I would ask why, because this is a story about two young men who were abused by Michael Jackson. You can always find people who were not harmed by an individual who has done harm."

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Their Claims

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In the film, Robson and Safechuck claim the the sexual abuse started when they were 7 and 10, respectively. They told their parents and wives for decades that their sleepovers were putonic, but have now opened up about the abuse they claim actually happened.

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'Supposed Memories'

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michael_Jackson_in_Vegas_cropped-2.jpg

Weitzman addressed the mens' sudden recollection of abuse in his letter to HBO:

“Robson now recounts ‘his’ supposed ‘memories’ of these events in great detail. But Mr. Reed and Robson never explain that he had to first ask his mother scores of questions before he could tell his story. Indeed, despite telling the story of his first night at Neverland in the documentary as if it is his own memory, at his deposition, he admitted that he ‘did not know’ if his memory of that night ‘came from [his] own recollection or [if] it was told to [Robson] by someone else.’”

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Niece Speaks Out

Brandi Jackson, the niece to Michael, has spoken out about the documentary and made claims about Wade Robson. She claims she was once the dancer's girlfriend, introduced by Jackson, and that Robson is lying with the doc and allegations.

She posted an entire thread full of allegations.

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HBO Confirms Air Date

Despite the controversy, HBO confirmed the date for the documentary over the weekend and plans to keep moving on despite the controversy.

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Channel 4 Will Also Air The Documentary

Channel 4 in the UK will also air the documentary in the days that follow the HBO premiere. Alleged leaked internal emails from the network warned employees of possible harassment and comments from Michael Jackson supporters.

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Criticism Of Jackson Lawyers

Online, there has been plenty of criticism of Jackson's legal team and the route they went to criticize Robson. Despite questions over the content of the documentary, there should be a line to draw, right?

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Something To Ponder

And on the other side, there is this tweet to ponder. While it does make perfect sense and is factual that you only need seconds for the truth, is that all the documentary is trying to achieve?

Take something like OJ: Made In America for example. There wasn't really any ground broken with it, there wasn't anything the public wasn't aware of already. But it told the full story and was necessary. And it was great for it.

What if this is the same?

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