Michael Jackson’s estate has been very vocal about its opposition to HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary, which presented the allegations of two men – Wade Robson and James Safechuck – against Jackson for having sexually molested them as kids. The late singer’s estate attempted to sue HBO both before and after the airing of the film, but it has not been successful yet. The estate is arguing that, by sharing these stories that are defaming Jackson’s legacy, HBO breached a non-disparagement clause in a contract that they signed with Jackson when he was supposed to release a concert special with the network in 1992. HBO responded to the lawsuit by claiming that this contract is far beyond the point of still being valid.
The two-day Creative Arts Emmys were held in Los Angeles this weekend, ahead of the Emmy Awards ceremony taking place on September 22. Leaving Neverland was nominated for five awards, including outstanding directing for a documentary/nonfiction program, outstanding picture editing for a nonfiction program, outstanding sound editing for a nonfiction program and outstanding sound mixing for a nonfiction program. It ended up winning for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special. Surely, a win in this category is most upsetting for Michael Jackson’s estate that believes the film’s content to be fictitious.
On the Emmy win, a spokesperson for the estate has commented, “For a film that is a complete fiction to be honored in a nonfiction Emmy category is a complete farce. Not one shred of proof supports this completely one-sided … so-called documentary which was made in secrecy and for which not one person outside of the two subjects and their families were interviewed.”
Leaving Neverland‘s director, Dan Reed, said the following upon accepting his award, “None of this would have been possible without the incredible courage and determination of Wade and James and their families, and I wanted to salute that. This is one of the first times we’ve been able to shine light on child sexual abuse… The pattern of how it unfolds is not an easy story to tell … it often remains undisclosed for so many decades, so I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
In April, Jackson’s biographer, Mike Smallcombe, pointed out a hole in the testimony of one of the accusers. Reed tweeted that the accuser got the dates of the alleged abuse wrong, to which Smallcombe responded: “Firstly, I’m shocked that he’s spoken on Safechuck’s behalf. And secondly, it’s embarrassing that he feels he has to now change the narrative of the film – which is that the alleged abuse stopped in 1992 – all because part of it has been disproved. That’s what happens when you take allegations like that at face value, and make no attempts to scrutinize and investigate whether they are true.”