Following its premiere at Sundance last month, the controverisal new Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, will air on HBO over two nights on March 3rd and 4th. Directed by Dan Reed, the four-hour film details Jackson’s long-running relationships with two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, both of who accuse the pop singer of molesting them throughout the 1980s and 90s.
In response to HBO’s announcement, Howard Weitzman, an attorney for the Michael Jackson Estate, has sent a blistering 10-page letter to HBO chief executive Richard Plepler, as The Hollywood Reporter reveals.
Similar to the estate’s past statements about the film, Weitzman spends a great deal of time questioning the veracity of the Safechuck’s and Robson’s claims. (Both Safechunk and Robinson previously testified in court that Jackson never assaulted them.)
Weitzman describes Leaving Neverland as “an admittedly one-sided, sensationalist program,” and says HBO “is being used as part of Robson’s and Safechuck’s legal strategy,” as the two are currently seeking appeals in lawsuits against the estate. Weitzman also takes issue with the film’s omission of interviews with the Jackson Estate or other parties who would refute the molestation claims.
“Given all of this, which are facts readily available to anyone doing minimal due diligence, why would HBO produce a documentary based solely on the words of these two liars and director/producer Dan Reed?” Weitzman writes. “Why would HBO produce this documentary without even seeking comment and response from the Jackson Estate who spent years successfully litigating these false allegations with Robson and Safechuck? Is there any other artist who HBO would do this to? Is there any other artist who HBO would not even seek comment from when making such serious accusations?”
“That HBO has now joined the tabloid media’s ‘Michael Jackson cacophony’—ten years after his death—is truly sad,” Weitzman goes on to say in the letter. “We know that HBO is facing serious competitive pressures from Netflix, Amazon and other more modern content providers, but to stoop to this level to regain an audience is disgraceful. We know HBO and its partners on this documentary will not be successful. We know that this will go down as the most shameful episode in HBO’s history.”
Speaking to Variety, HBO programming president Casey Bloys said Weitzman’s letter will not alter the network’s plans. “It doesn’t change our plans,” Bloys commented. “We announced the air date. It will air as planned.”
“We hope that people will reserve judgment until they see it,” Bloys added. “It’s very powerful to see these two men share their stories. I think after everybody sees it, they can decide for themselves.” He also defended the integrity of the film, saying that it “absolutely” meets HBO’s standards.