Reed was responding to Chappelle’s scathing comments about the film in his latest Netflix special, Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones.
“I don’t think Dave Chappelle was very funny or clever to do what he did. You know, mocking kids who were raped by famous people, its like: Is that funny?” Reed said.
“Some people think it’s funny, but I don’t want this film to be positioned as part of the sort of ‘Cancel Culture,’” added the director, whose HBO docuseries investigated the alleged sex abuse of minors by Michael Jackson, at the height of the singer’s career.
“[Jackson] has been dead a long time, his music’s out there. There’s nothing in the film that says, ‘Don’t listen to Michael Jackson.’ There’s nothing in this film that says, ‘Cancel MJ.’ We’re not part of cancel culture,” Reed said.
Leaving Neverland premiered in March, and told the stories of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, then-childhood entertainers who alleged they were molested by the King of Pop.
In his Netflix special, which was released on August 26, Chappelle called the two-part film “nasty,” and urged fans not to watch it.
“I don’t believe those motherf***ers,” Chappelle said about Jackson’s now-adult accusers. “Don’t watch it… It’s f***ing gross… really nasty s**t.”
“I don’t think he did it, but you know what? Even if he did do it … you know what I mean?” the comic added. “I mean, it’s Michael Jackson. I know more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives, but it wasn’t no goddamn Michael Jackson, was it?”
Reed was at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday in support of his doc, which earned five nominations from the Television Academy, including Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, with additional representation in the categories of Directing, Picture Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Leaving Neverland won the Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
The Jackson estate pressured HBO to abandon Leaving Neverland, and described the network’s decision to air it as “a public lynching.”