Over the course of the 25 years that Oprah Winfrey taped The Oprah Show, she devoted 217 episodes to the subject of sexual abuse. And as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, the issue is very much close to her heart. On Wednesday, Winfrey taped an interview with two of the accusers at the center of what is arguably one of the biggest sexual abuse stories in recent history: the allegations against Michael Jackson.
In the interview, Winfrey speaks with Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, the main subjects of the upcoming two-part HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which premieres on March 3rd. Directed by Dan Reed, Leaving Neverland features extensive interviews with Robson, Safechuck and their family members, all of whom allege that Jackson groomed the boys as children and sexually abused them at his estate.
In a preview of the interview, Winfrey makes it clear that she believes the story is “bigger than any one person.”
“For me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person,” Winfrey said in the clip. “This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption. It’s like a scourge on humanity and it’s happening right now.”
During the interview, Winfrey also poses a question that many of Jackson’s defenders (and Jackson’s family members, who have denounced the film) have also asked: why Robson and Safechuck continued to associate with Jackson after the alleged abuse occurred, with Robson even testifying on Jackson’s behalf during his 2005 child molestation trial. (Jackson was ultimately acquitted on the charges; he died in 2009.)
“I had no understanding of being abused. I loved Michael,” Robson says in the interview. “And all the times that I testified and the many, many times that I gushed over him publicly in interviews over wherever it may be, that was from a real place, while never forgetting any of the sexual details that happened between us, but having no understanding that it was abuse, and having no concept in my mind that anything about Michael could ever be bad. Anything that Michael did was right, to me, for so many years.”
In the interview, Winfrey also presses director Dan Reed on whether or not people in Jackson’s inner circle knew about or enabled the abuse, according to a report from BuzzFeed. “I think a great many people knew,” Reed said. Robson agreed, telling Winfrey it was “very rare that Michael was alone” and that security guards would arrange his calls with Jackson or stand outside the door while the two were together.
Winfrey’s interview, Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland, will air on HBO and OWN on Monday, March 4th, at 10:00 p.m. EST, after the conclusion of Leaving Neverland.