Celebs react to Leaving Neverland

Leaving Neverland, a documentary which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, features graphic and harrowing interviews from Wade Robson and James Safechuck who allege that Michael Jackson began sexually abusing when they were children. The controversial documentary, whose premiere required "an unprecedented police presence" and bomb-sniffing dogs (via Daily Beast), contains allegations of the iconic performer's predatory behavior that are shocking and disturbing.

The Jackson Family categorically denies the allegations in the film, and Michael Jackson's estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO. "Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged," HBO responded (via Deadline). "This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves."

HBO stayed true to their word, and part one of the two-part documentary aired on March 3, 2019. As expected, Leaving Neverland's detailed exploration of Michael Jackson's alleged abuses divided his celebrity fans.

Ava DuVernay

Director Ava DuVernay, tweeted, "'It's hard to explain the relationship between superstars of the 80s and their fans to people who weren't alive or old enough to remember the decade.' Strong piece by ⁦@CraigSJ⁩ on the doc I'm dreading to watch," referencing Craig Jenkins' Vulture piece entitled, "No One Deserves As Much Power As Michael Jackson Had."

The article explains the murkiness of Michael Jackson's sexual abuse allegations over the years, and how most of the general public refused to believe them because they saw the iconic singer as one of the "demigods." While the article didn't make a case for or against believing Jackson's victims, merely tweeting the article caused DuVernay's followers to push back.

"Michael Jackson super fans are really going hard in my comments for simply sharing an article by a cultural critic who shared his opinion on the doc. This is one of the kindler, gentler comments. I mean, Annie, are you okay? 'Cause this is a lot," DuVernay responded.

Amber Tamblyn

"I'm with you Ava. Watching too. Eight minutes in and I'm already feeling… many feelings. And preparing for the onslaught. #LeavingNeverland," actress Amber Tamblyn replied. A vocal feminist activist of late, Tamblyn is a staunch advocate of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements, and she doesn't shy away from sharing her political opinions through that lens. 

"As a former child actress, I can't help but watch this documentary and think about how wrong it is for children to be put in the position of performing for the soul (sic) purpose of pleasing adults. It's such a slippery, dangerous, often abusive slope," she also tweeted.

Tamblyn speaks from experience on the dangers of being a child actor. In September 2017, she accused actor James Woods of asking her to go to Vegas when she was 16. When Woods denied the claimed, Tamblyn penned an open letter to the Videodrome actor and published it in Teen Vogue. "You tried to make it sound innocent," she wrote. "This is something predatory men like to do, I've noticed. Make it sound innocent. Just a dollop of insinuation. Just a hair of persuasion. Just a pinch of suggestion." 

John Legend

As an EGOT-winner and frequent socio-political commentator, John Legend was bound to weigh in on Leaving Neverland. He even participated in a documentary that accused another musical giant, R. Kelly, of sexual abuse involving minors, going so far as to tweet that he doesn't "give a f**k about protecting a serial child rapist." As this writing, Legend hasn't seen Leaving Neverland, however, during an appearance on Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on Feb. 28, 2019, he encouraged everyone to watch. 

"I don't know what's going to be in the Michael Jackson documentary, so I'll be watching just like everyone else," Legend said. He went on to explain that many artists have done "terrible things," and that separating the art from the artist is a personal choice for any fan. "But I think everybody has to make that choice and you have to decide what's too far for you," the "Preach" singer added. "And obviously musicians aren't going to be perfect and artists aren't going to be perfect and you can't expect artists to be blemish-free, but everybody's gotta decide what's too far for them."

Judd Apatow

"It takes days to recover from this documentary. Five minutes in you will think to yourself 'oh my God, every word they are saying is true,'" Judd Apatow tweeted of his viewing experience. 

The director of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin wasn't finished giving his thoughts on the documentary. Responding to a Vanity Fair article that claimed the Jackson family refused to watch Leaving Neverland, Apatow wrote: "Of course. Because then they would learn something they don't want to know. Lack of curiosity and empathy for his victims is essential to fighting to keep the estate healthy. What would happen if they acknowledged he was a talented man who hurt children? They could help the world."

When a Twitter user showed official FBI documents where Robson claimed his memories of his alleged abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson "evolved," Apatow explained why that happens. "When you have been sexually abused since the age of seven not every moment of your life is crystal clear in your memory, but you certainly know what happened to you, over and over. The Michael Jackson doc starts in 15 minutes on the east coast. All should watch with compassion," he responded.

Corey Feldman

Corey Feldman, who had a childhood friendship with Michael Jackson and launched a campaign to expose Hollywood pedophiles, claimed the entertainer never molested him. In a series of tweets, The Lost Boys actor detailed his experience with Jackson and questioned the motives and narrative of Leaving Neverland.

"#Neverland OK I WATCHED IT ALL I KNOW IS WHAT I EXPERIENCED, & YES EVERY EXPERIENCE WAS THE SAME….RIGHT UP 2 THE SEX PART! THAT IS WHERE IT BECOMES LALA LAND, INSTEAD OF NEVERLAND 4 ME. WE NEVER SPOKE ABOUT SEX OTHER THAN A FEW WARNINGS ABOUT HOW SEX WAS SCARY, & DANGEROUS. MJ," he tweeted. "NEVER ONCE SWORE IN MY PRESENCE, NEVER TOUCHED ME INAPPROPRIATELY, & NEVER EVER SUGGESTED WE SHOULD BE LOVERS IN ANY WAY! I FEEL LIKE IF PPL COULD HEAR OUR CONVOS, THEY WOULD HEAR THE INNOCENCE IN THEM. NO HINT OF PERVERSION," he added.

In the remainder of his Twitter thread, Feldman claims the documentary is one-sided and has "NO EVIDENCE OTHER THAN THE WORD OF 2 MEN WHO AS ADULTS DEFENDED HIM IN COURT," referencing Wade Robson and James Safechuck's testimony on Jackson's behalf during his two previous sexual abuse cases against the singer.

Rosie O'Donnell

When Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, celebrities the world reacted with shock and reflected on the life of the troubled "King of Pop." Comedian Rosie O'Donnell was one of those celebrities.

In a now-deleted poem published on her blog four days after Jackson's death (via Access), O'Donnell claimed she "felt numb" at the news of Jackson's passing and struggled with "what exactly do we mourn" about the controversial superstar."We all saw him suffer, as his face fell in on itself, friends and family unable to reach in, he unable to reach out," Rosie wrote. "Many made millions, looking the other way, as he invited young boys to his bed, he turned into the thing he loathed, the man in the mirror, had no idea how to change his ways."

While watching Leaving Neverland, O'Donnell shared her thoughts on the "haunting" documentary. "Who would leave a seven – yes 7 – year old boy with a grown man – makes no sense to me as a mom," O'Donnell tweeted. "Hard not to loathe them – the moms," she added.

Elgin Charles

TV personality Elgin Charles hopped on Twitter to deliver a scathing critique of Leaving Neverland, calling it nothing more than "sensationalism" at the expense of Jackson's legacy. "Michael Jackson was under FBI surveillance for well over a decade. They found NOTHING to substantiate claims of child abuse. He was also fully exonerated following his '05 trial. #LeavingNeverland fails to highlight these FACTS – and MJ is no longer here to defend himself," he wrote.

"My chief issue with the #LeavingNeverland doc is that there is no counterargument to the claims leveraged by the accusers. Why were Michael's children, family, and/or estate not given an opportunity to be featured? And why is it being released 10yrs following his passing?" the star of VH1's Beverly Hills Fabulous added

Charles ended his tweet storm by saying Leaving Neverland isn't documentary but a "filmed interview, designed to push a specific narrative" that's "devoid of key facts & objectivity." He added, "Sadly, none of this matters to critics and quasi 'journalists' who are swept up in the sensationalism of it all."

Geraldo Rivera

Attorney and frequent Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera, also referenced Michael Jackson's 2005 sexual abuse trial in his commentary of Leaving Neverland. "Covering #MichaelJackson molestation trial in 2005 I recall effective testimony from #WadeRobson that Jackson had Never molested him. After Jackson's death, Robson tried to get job w Jackson estate projects. They didn't hire him. Now-in #LeavingNeverland-Robson claims he molested," he tweeted.

In follow-up tweets, Rivera suggested a big payday is the only motivation for Robson and Safechuck. "Like virtually all #MichaelJackson accusers #JamesSafechuck & #WadeRobson had horrific stories to tell-except under oath. Both sold their stories after failing in lawsuits vs Jackson estate. Both sold their allegations to tabloids for profit, rather than testify to them in court," he wrote

"Along with vivid, damning testimony of the purported molestation victims in #LeavingNeverland is the recollection that their earlier exculpatory statements were just as convincing. Both have said repeatedly that #MichaelJackson never did anything bad. Now stories have turned 180," he added.

Rose McGowan

During the Harvey Weinstein scandal that rocked Hollywood, The New York Times revealed that Scream actress Rose McGowan reached a "$100,000 settlement" with the media mogul after a hotel room encounter during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. McGowan broke her silence about her ordeal and went on to become one of the leading voices in the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. 

McGowan's experiences and advocacy naturally led her to believe Michael Jackson's accusers. "The survivors are brave. .@Oprah is brave. The documentarians are brave. This is what brave is folks, standing against the grain, going against the norm, rocking the boat because sometimes it needs to be rocked. It is hard to hear truth, but that's what growing pains are. #Brave," she tweeted while watching Oprah's interview Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

During a March 6, 2019 appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live Headliners (via EWN), McGowan reiterated her support for Robson and Safechuck, while telling Jackson fans to accept that the singer was a "bad" person. "Why on earth would anyone want to come out and expose themselves to so much hate if they weren't trying to regain some control in their own life? Control that had been robbed and stolen," she said. "It doesn't mean that you can't listen to or enjoy [Jackson]'s music, you just have to understand that people are really complex and this person had a particular complexity that hurt a lot of others."

The Jacksons

Michael Jackson's family are outspoken critics of Leaving Neverland and have made the talk show rounds to push back on the documentary's explosive claims. Jackson 5 member Tito Jackson posted a photo of himself, alongside his brothers and nephew, on Instagram after they appeared on CBS. He captioned it: "We're defending our brother and uncle, because Michael is not here anymore to defend himself. Facts don't lie, people do. Did you watch us on CBS This Morning?"

Jackson's nephew, Taj Jackson, has retweeted several comments about his uncle's innocence and thanked his fans for their support. "As I head back to Los Angeles, I want to thank UK media for giving me the opportunity to be a voice for my uncle Michael. To all the MJ fans worldwide, you have been truly amazing. While they have stories…we have the truth. The facts don't lie, people do," he tweeted. Another one of Jackson's nephews, Taryll Jackson, simply posted a photo on Instagram of Michael with the word "innocent" across his mouth.

Before Leaving Neverland's debut on HBO, Michael Jackson's niece Brandi Jackson, tweeted: "Wade and I were together for over 7 years, but I bet that isn't in his "documentary" because it would ruin his timeline. And did I mention, it was my uncle, #MichaelJackson, who set us up? Wade is not a victim, #WadeRobsonIsaLiar."