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Michael Jackson Estate Slams ‘Leaving Neverland’ in Letter to HBO: ‘It Is a Disgrace’

Estate’s counsel writes that two-part documentary “violates all norms and ethics in documentary filmmaking and journalism”

Michael Jackson arrives at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse for his child molestation trial in Santa Maria, Calif. A documentary film about two boys who accused Michael Jackson of sexual abuse is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. The Sundance Institute announced the addition of 'Leaving Neverland' and 'The Brink,' a documentary about Steve Bannon, to its 2019 lineup on Wednesday. The Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Jan 24 and runs through Feb. 4.Michael Jackson arrives at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, USA - 25 May 2005

Hours after HBO announced when 'Leaving Neverland' would premiere, the Michael Jackson estate fired off a 10-page letter slamming the film.

Aaron Lambert/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Hours after HBO announced when Leaving Neverland would premiere, the estate of Michael Jackson fired off a 10-page letter to HBO’s CEO slamming the film and HBO’s decision to air it.

In the letter to HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler, the estate’s counsel deem Leaving Neverland “an admittedly one-sided, sensationalist program—referred to as a ‘documentary'” and defend Jackson against the accusations brought forth by the film’s two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

“The Estate spent years litigating with Robson and Safechuck, and had four different lawsuits by these two men dismissed with prejudice,” the estate said. “Today, Robson owes the Estate almost seventy thousand dollars in court costs, and Safechuck owes the Estate several thousand dollars as well.”

The estate also accuses Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed of purposefully not contacting or interviewing anyone who could dispel Robson and Safechuck’s allegations, including Jackson’s family, former legal team, other young children who spent time with Jackson or those who know Safechuck and Robson and don’t believe their accusations.

“The fact that HBO and its producing partners did not even deign to reach out to any of these people to explore the credibility of the false stories Robson and Safechuck told violates all norms and ethics in documentary filmmaking and journalism,” the estate said. “It is a disgrace.”

Much of the letter questions Robson’s credibility, with the estate detailing how Robson once served as a witness in support of Jackson during the singer’s child molestation trial; following Jackson’s 2009 death, Robson released a statement that said Jackson was “one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind.”

The letter states that, two years later, after the estate turned down Robson, a noted choreographer, for a Michael Jackson-themed Cirque de Soleil show, Robson came forward with his “fabricated” allegations against Jackson.

“Simply put, Robson is an admitted perjurer who proudly called himself (in his draft book) a ‘master of deception,'” the letter said. “Robson is such a good liar that his own mother testified under oath at her deposition that she could not tell when he was lying; she even volunteered that ‘he should have had an Oscar‘ given how convincing his lies were. It may just be that he deserves an Oscar for HBO’s ‘documentary’ as well.”

The letter to HBO continued, “As for Safechuck, by his own admission, he did not ‘realize’ that he had been abused until after he saw Robson on the Today Show in May 2013 being interviewed by Matt Lauer about Robson’s newly-concocted story of abuse. All of a sudden, Safechuck realized that he had been abused. He then contacted Robson’s lawyers and filed copycat lawsuits against the Estate for millions of dollars. And like Robson, he too had testified under oath that Jackson never did anything inappropriate with him. His two cases against the Estate were also dismissed. Safechuck’s frivolous lawsuits were dismissed so early in the proceedings that significant discovery was never taken in his case, and he was able to avoid having his deposition taken and producing documents.”

In closing, the estate counsel’s wrote, “We would be happy to meet with HBO to discuss a solution. We have plenty of further information and witnesses that would expose these two for who they are. If HBO wants to maintain its industry position as a valid source of news and fact, it owes an obligation to the public—not to mention the deceased Michael Jackson with whom HBO had previously partnered with during his lifetime—to actually investigate these matters. Barring that, this ‘documentary’ will say a lot more about HBO than it ever could about Michael Jackson.”

Jackson’s family previously issued a statement calling the documentary “a public lynching.”

In response to the 10-page letter, HBO said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Our plans remain unchanged. The two-part documentary, Leaving Neverland will air as scheduled on Sunday, March 3rd and Monday, March 4th. Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors’ accounts. People should reserve judgment until they see the film.”

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