One of Michael Jackson’s accusers in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland has been caught in a “pure fiction,” according to Jackson biographer Michael Smallcombe.
Backed by enormous fanfare in our #MeToo era, earlier this year HBO broadcast a damning two-part documentary accusing the late pop icon of systematically abusing two boys over the course of years.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who are now grown men, tell similar horror stories in British director Dan Reed’s four-hour film.
According to the two alleged victims, after winning over the approval of their respective parents and grooming them as young boys, Jackson went on to have sexual relationships with the boys until they reached the age of 14.
This, however, contradicts their earlier testimony in defense of Jackson.
During Jackson’s widely publicized 2005 molestation trial (he was eventually acquitted), Robson, who was 21 at the time, testified as the lead character witness for the accused singer. Under oath, Robson (along with former child star Macauley Culkin and others) said that Jackson had never acted inappropriately with him. Many believe this testimony was vital in convincing the jury to return a not guilty verdict.
Ten years later, in 2013, and four years after Jackson’s untimely death at the age of 50, Robson reversed his position and sued the Jackson estate for more than a billion dollars alleging he had been sexually abused by Jackson for seven years, between 1989 and 1996.
In 2014, after learning of Robson’s lawsuit, Safechuck filed one of his own alleging four years of abuse between 1988 and 1992.
Robson’s 2015 suit was dismissed when a judge ruled that he had waited too long to file it. Subsequent suits by Robson and Safechuck were also dismissed on the grounds that the Jackson-owned entities named in the suits were not liable for any alleged wrongs.
Leaving Neverland earned a ton of publicity and notoriety, primarily due to its graphic nature. According to reviewers, both men go into excruciating detail about the alleged sexual abuse. But one key detail does not add up, according to Smallcombe.
In the documentary Safechuck describes four intense years of abuse that includes liaisons at a “train station” at Neverland Ranch, Jackson’s famous California home.
“At the train station, there was a room upstairs, and we would have sex up there too,” Safechuck claims.
Smallcombe, however, says this is impossible due to the timeline.
Safechuck specifically claims to have been abused between the years 1988 and 1992. According to Smallcombe, blueprints and building permits prove there was no train station at Neverland until 1994 and construction on the building did not begin until 1993, one year after Safechuck says the abuse ceased.
Smallcombe adds that he can prove there is actually a three year discrepancy because during the entire time of the train station’s construction, Jackson was in London either on tour or in rehab. What’s more, between “February 1994 and December 1994, Jackson was living in Trump Tower in New York recording his HIStory album, and only making the odd trip abroad,” Smallcombe told the Mirror.
He adds that the Neverland “train station opened in 1994, while Jackson was living on the other side of the country” and was not home with the completed train station until 1995, which is three full years after Safechuck says the abuse ended.
“And by then Safechuck was 17, and on the cusp of adulthood.”
In a tweet, Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed acknowledged that “there seems to be no doubt about the station date. The date they have wrong is the end of the abuse.”
He added that he is not acknowledging his documentary contained an error: “No u-turn. No clash of dates,” he tweeted. “James [Safechuck] was present at Neverland before and after the train station was built. In fact he took photos of the completed station which we included in the doc. And his sexual contact with Michael lasted into his teens. That’s all in the film.”
Except there is an error in Reed’s documentary, a major error.
Safechuck is clear about the dates of his abuse. But now that those dates do not add up with the existence of the train station two parts of his story cannot be true: 1) That Safechuck was abused between 1988 and 1992 and 2) that Michael Jackson lost interest in his alleged victims when they turned 14. The only way Safechuck could have been abused in the train station is when he was 16 or 17.
What this mistake also proves — and this is important — is that neither Reed nor HBO bothered to engage in basic fact-checking, which of course taints the entire project.
Listen, I’m no Michael Jackson fan or apologist. But as an American I will always have a problem with what Reed and HBO did, which was to put millions of corporate dollars behind what was a sketchy campaign of character assassination to begin with.
As adults, both men testified under oath on behalf of Jackson, and now as they try to resurrect their lawsuits against the estate, they claim to have perjured themselves. Worse still, all of this is being subsidized by a major corporation looking for new monthly subscribers.
This is a free country. HBO and Reed can obviously do and say whatever they like. But this is also not a game. Jackson’s legacy is on the line and in reaction to what we always knew was a flawed documentary, the hysterical moral panic that ensued has already resulted in a blacklisting campaign against a man who cannot defend himself.
The Simpsons producers pulled a famous episode that featured Jackson, radio stations have removed his music, museums have removed displays, and so on…
While there is no question damning evidence can come to light after someone’s death that should become public, Leaving Neverland’s sources are two men who now claim they committed perjury and did so in a documentary that failed in the arena of basic fact checking. .
Jackson might very well be the monster some claim, but he was acquitted when up against the best case the state of California could make and Leaving Neverland‘s case is even weaker.