The estate of Michael Jackson has sent a stern letter to UK’s Channel 4 warning that a documentary about two men accusing the late singer of molesting them as children violates the network’s guidelines.
The letter, which was written by estate attorney Howard Weitzman and released to The Associated Press on Monday, states that “Leaving Neverland” made no attempt at getting a response to the accusers from Jackson’s estate, family, friends or others who have defended his reputation as required by the channel’s standards for factual programming and basic journalistic ethics.
The documentary is set to air in early March.
The letter cites a section of the publicly available guidelines that states if a show “makes significant allegations” then “those concerned should be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.”
“I think we can all agree that the false allegations being made in your ‘documentary’ are ‘significant allegations,’” stated the letter, adding, “it is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone.”
The letter alleged that no one was ever asked to respond.
“This includes persons mentioned by name in your ‘documentary’ as having ‘replaced’ [Wade] Robson and [James] Safechuck as Jackson’s supposed victims of abuse. Those named persons eloquently and publicly deny ever being abused,” said the letter.
Channel 4 said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Jackson are rebutted in the documentary by denials that Jackson made during his lifetime. It insisted the broadcast meets Britain’s official broadcasting code by providing these denials.
“On this occasion the person against whom the significant allegations are being made is deceased,” said the station. “It is therefore appropriate that his denials during life are included in the program.
The film’s director Dan Reed has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that he intentionally focused on just Robson and Safechuck.
“Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of,” said Reed.
The three-page document from the estate echoed a longer letter it sent to HBO on Friday calling the allegations from Robson and Safechuck “disgraceful” and urging investigation of the men’s backgrounds.
A copy of the HBO letter was included with the Channel 4 letter, and applies just as much to the U.K. station, said the letter.
The two channels co-produced the documentary account of how the two men’s lives intersected with Jackson’s when they were kids at the height of his fame, and how the trauma of what they say happened in their youth started to emerge in their adult life.
It premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robson and Safechuck got a standing ovation afterward.
Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Robson testifying as much in Jackson’s 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy.
Both men later filed lawsuits that were dismissed and are currently on appeal.
In a January 2018 statement sent to Fox News, the Jackson family said they were appalled that the documentary was being praised despite the creators “not being interested in the truth.”
“Michael Jackson is our brother and son,” said the statement. “We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity. We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for.”
“People have always loved to go after Michael,” continued the letter. “He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.
“Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family — that is the Jackson way. But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise, these allegations would not have been made.”
The Jackson family claimed that the filmmakers refused to interview anyone who was closely associated with the “King of Pop.”
“The creators of this film were not interested in the truth,” said the statement. “They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except for the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories. But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100% innocent of these false allegations.”
Jackson passed away in 2009 at age 50 of cardiac arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.