Just two days shy of the debut of Leaving Neverland, a new, explosive documentary which accuses the late Michael Jackson of sexually abusing children, Oprah Winfrey says the film illustrates how pervasive and insidious sexual abuse is and she is interviewing the accusers following the airing.
The talk show host told PEOPLE Magazine that she phoned Dan Reed, the director, and producer of the documentary, immediately after she finished watching it to tell him that he illustrated in just two hours, what she had tried to explain about sexual abuse over 25 years and 217 episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I know people all over the world are gonna be in an uproar and debating whether or not Michael Jackson did these things or not, did he do it or not do it, whether these two men are lying or not lying,” Winfrey, 65, said during the taping of the special, which is titled Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland.
She continued, according to PEOPLE, “But for me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person. This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption. It’s like a scourge on humanity and it’s happening right now. It’s happening in families.”
Leaving Neverland was well received when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month and will be broadcast on HBO in two parts – on Sunday and Monday. The Jackson family vehemently denies the allegations against Michael and has filed a lawsuit against HBO. This week, Jackson’s brothers – Tito, Marlon, and Jackie Jackson, as well as Jackson’s nephew, Taj Jackson, appeared on CBS This Morning and were interviewed by Gayle King. The family denounced the film and Robson and Safechuck’s claims.
Before Winfrey launched into her interview special, she took a moment to address the audience, which included survivors of sexual abuse who had just screened the film. She said, “As you just saw in Leaving Neverland that as young boys, these two men did not feel abuse until much later on in life. And when you are a child — this is the message I want every parent to hear — you don’t have the language to explain what is happening to you because you’ve been seduced and entrapped,” Winfrey said, according to PEOPLE.
Still, Winfrey said she was prepared for the backlash, aware that her support of the documentary may cause an angry response directed at her from Jackson’s fans and family.
“We’re all gonna get it, I’m gonna get it, we’re all gonna get it,” she said, before adding that people are going to say to her, ‘You’re letting the black man down,’” according to PEOPLE.
She started the interview questioning why Robson had previously testified in Jackson’s 2005 trial on child-molestation charges, when he was 11, that the singer never acted inappropriately towards him. Jackson was ultimately acquitted in the 2005 trial on all charges.
“I had no understanding that what Michael did to me sexually was abuse,” Robson responded to Winfrey, PEOPLE reported. “I had no concept of it being that. From night one of the abuse, of the sexual stuff that Michael did to me, he told me that it was love. He told me that he loved me and that God brought us together. I was this little boy from the other side of the world in Australia. Michael was God to me…anything Michael was going to say to me was gospel to me.”
Winfrey said the film shows Jackson’s alleged “grooming process,” particularly when he, according to Safechuck, had a marriage ceremony with the boy with rings and handwritten vows.
“That moment was part of him telling me we’ll be together forever,” Safecheck told Winfrey. “It was an action to solidify our love. I was getting a little older and I was a little more insecure about my position, so it was sort of reminding me that we’ll always be together.”
“Even before that, I was all in,” Safecheck continues. “He also wedges a space between you and your parents, you and the rest of the world. He works very hard at that. So it’s you and him against the world. And that intense love combined with the world’s intense love for him is overwhelming.”
Oprah’s special will air immediately following the documentary on Sunday night. The documentary airs this Sunday and Monday on HBO.