HBO and director Dan Reed have faced a lot of controversy over their Leaving Neverland documentary, which takes a closer look at the allegations of child abuse that were leveled at Michael Jackson before and after his passing. Despite the death threats he's received from Jackson's fans, as well as the possibility of legal action from the late singer's estate, Reed still stands by Leaving Neverland.
In an interview with Deadline, Reed said, "It certainly hasn't cowed either me or HBO. I stand by every second of the film and so does HBO." The two-part documentary resulted in a collective reassessment of MJ's legacy, but it also upset a lot of his diehard fans. Both James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the two men featured in the documentary who alleged Jackson engaged in sexual relationships with them when they were underage, have also been targeted by fans.
"What they both experienced was a gradual psychological and physical seduction," Reed told Deadline. "Jackson did not violently, brutally, break these little boys. He took his time, and he seduced them, in the way that an adult would seduce another adult, but—and this is the most horrifying thing—he treated these little children as you would a sexualized adult."
Reed has doubled down on his belief that Jackson was a serial pedophile. "What’s puzzling about the case of Michael Jackson is the ferocity of the disbelief, if you like, in the stories of these two young men," he added. "At the beginning we had a ton of emails that were very hostile, hostile death threats, and people saying awful things about me and my family."
Oprah Winfrey, who hosted a televised special following the premiere of the documentary, in which she interviewed Reed, Safechuck, and Robson, has also received hate from MJ fans. One of the many complaints about the film centers around the argument that it lacked interviews with Jackson family members or anyone who seemed to defend him.
"What’s at issue here is what happened behind the closed doors of Jackson’s bedroom," Reed said, defending the interview subjects he ultimately chose. "And there were no other witnesses apart from the child and Jackson himself. Jackson was a very manipulative and thorough, well-prepared, organized pedophile. And I don’t think putting a kind of token rebuttal in the film from someone who was not there when the crime was committed, I don’t really see a great deal of journalistic value in that.