Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed had a straightforward answer today when the CBS This Morning anchors challenged him for not including Michael Jackson’s family in the controversial documentary: The family wasn’t in the room when Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse of two boys took place.
“No one else was in the room, I don’t believe, when Wade [Robson] was being molested by Michael,” Reed said, “or when James [Safechuck] was having sex with Michael.”
The Reed interview (watch the segment above) was the first part of the morning show’s exclusive three-day series of interviews focusing on Reed’s scathing documentary that roiled this year’s Sundance Film Festival and debuts this weekend on HBO. The interviews kicked off today with Reed, and continue tomorrow with the Jackson family and, on Thursday, Robson and Safechuck.
In Reed’s documentary, both Robson and Safechuck say they were sexually abused by Jackson, reversing their longtime claims denying the allegations. Questioned about the two men’s changing stories today, Reed said that victims of pedophiles often form “deep attachments” to their abusers. “Both Wade and James were in love with Michael and continued loving him” even after the abuse, he said. Jackson, he said, had convinced the boys of their special friendship.
When anchor Gayle King asked why Reed didn’t think it was important to include the Jackson family in his documentary, the director said, “This is not a film about Michael Jackson, it’s a film about Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the two little boys to whom this dreadful thing happened long ago.”
Pressed yet again on the subject by anchor John Dickerson — specifically, whether Reed felt an “obligation” to give the Jackson family an opportunity to address the allegations — Reed said, “What does the family know about the sexual abuse? Do you think they know about the sexual abuse?”
“What was important to me,” Reed continued, “was to have eyewitnesses or people who could add something to the story. I don’t know that the Jackson family has any direct knowledge of what happened to Wade and James.”
Reed said that, despite the Jackson family’s absence from the film, allegations of molestation were refuted by Jackson himself, and those denials are included in the film.
The Jackson family has denounced the two accusers as “opportunists” and “admitted liars.” The Jackson Estate sued HBO last week. Reed said today that the two accusers were not paid to appear in the film and “have no financial interest whatsoever and no future, past or present interest.”
Also this morning, Reed insisted he began the project with an open mind and no preconceived notions of Jackson’s guilt or innocence. When King asked why he felt the need to include graphic sexual details in Leaving Neverland, Reed responded, “I think for many years Jackson got away with this image of being a bit of a child himself and being very affectionate with children, and I wanted to make sure people understood this wasn’t overenthusiastic kissing or cuddling. This was sex, the kind of sex adults have but he was having with a little child.”
Members of the Jackson family will be interviewed by King tomorrow on CBS This Morning. The two-part Leaving Neverland airs Sunday, March 3 and Monday, March 4 (8-10 pm ET/PT both nights) on HBO.