March 20, 2019

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In ‘After Neverland,’ Oprah Winfrey Processes Michael Jackson Allegations

In ‘After Neverland,’ Oprah Winfrey Processes Michael Jackson Allegations
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Talk eventually turned to suspicions of their motives, and the assertions by superfans and the Jackson family that Robson and Safechuck are only coming forward for financial gain. Reed emphatically denied that either of the men or their families received compensation for the film.

Robson said that a lawsuit he filed against the Jackson estate in 2013 was about doing “something good with this bad,” not about remuneration. He saw the legal system as a “platform” to tell his story in a scenario where the estate would “have to listen” and “have to sit there.”

“Michael trained me and forced me to tell the lie for so many years, and particularly on the stand,” he continued. “And those were really traumatizing experiences for me that had a huge impact on the rest of my life. So the feeling was, I want an opportunity to reprocess that experience. I want to get on the stand again, because now I’m able to tell the truth.”

(Robson’s suit was thrown out by a judge because too much time had passed. Safechuck sued the following year and was also unsuccessful. Both cases are under appeal.)

The Jackson family has denied all of the allegations and publicly condemned the film, and the estate is suing HBO for $100 million. Winfrey seemed fully aware of the optics of her interview: “All the anger — you guys are going to get it. You know that, right?”

She continued, “You’re going to get it. I’m going to get it. We’re all going to get it.”

At various points during the taping, Winfrey mentioned, in passing, her own experience as a survivor of child abuse. Curiously, there was no mention of her personal connection to Jackson — in particular, the famous 1993 live interview with him at Neverland Ranch, which took place just months before the first public accusations against him were made.

In that interview, she was an unabashed fan (“I think ‘King of Pop’ is actually too limiting,” she told him, referring to his moniker), but based on her conversation with Reed, Robson and Safechuck, it’s clear her perception of Jackson has shifted. Winfrey explained at the beginning of the taping that she reached out to Reed after watching the documentary, and told him that he had done “in four hours what I tried to do in 217 episodes” dedicated to educating her audience about sexual abuse.

As the conversation wound down, the subject turned to absolution. When the accusers were asked if they had forgiven Jackson, Safechuck admitted that he felt guilt just the weekend before for speaking out. “Like I let him down,” he said. “Like — it’s still there. The shadow’s still there.”

Winfrey concluded the show with words of inspiration for survivors and the importance of education around abuse, and the audience in the theater gave a standing ovation that emanated a collective catharsis. Robson had one last thing to say, however — a direct address to the audience in the theater.

“As so many of you know, being a survivor is so isolating,” he said. “At least it is for a really long time. So to be in this space with you guys, the brothers and sisters in trauma and in triumph — that we’re standing, you know, and we’re here, I’m just so grateful.”

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