Oprah Winfrey Braces for 'After Neverland' Backlash

Prior to her interview with two men accusing Michael Jackson of sexual abuse, Oprah Winfrey said she knows she'll be criticized for sitting down with them.

"I'm gonna get it," Winfrey said during the taping for her new special called After Neverland, as reported by Variety.

The 65-year-old argued that the issue of sexual abuse, spotlighted by the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, is too important to gloss over, despite how angry it makes Jackson's fans.

"This movie transcends Michael Jackson," she told the crowd, which consisted of more than 100 abuse survivors. "It allows us to see societal corruption."

Throughout the taping, Variety reports that Winfrey made it clear that she believes Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuk, who joined her on stage along with the director of Leaving Neverland, Dan Reed.

"Beware of people who just want to be around your children," Winfrey said during the taping, calling child sex abuse a "scourge against humanity."

Leaving Neverland has been met with much pushback from the Jackson family and the late singer's estate, both of which have issued strong denials of the accusations leveled in the film.

"This so-called 'documentary' is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations," a statement from Jackson's estate to Entertainment Tonight read. "It's baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project."

The estate also filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO in February, claiming the network violated a non-disparagement clause in a 1992 contact it had with Jackson and that the documentary is nothing but "unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself."

Jackson's brother, Jackie Jackson, said he refuses to see Leaving Neverland.

"I don't care to see it because I know my brother," Jackie Jackson said. "I don't have to see that documentary. I know Michael. I'm the oldest brother. I know my brother. I know what he stood for. What he was all about. Bringing the world together. Making kids happy. That's the kind of person he was."

"I want [viewers] to understand and know that this documentary is not telling the truth," Marlon Jackson added. "There has not been not one piece of evidence that corroborates their story and they're not interested in doing that."

In Leaving Neverland, which premiered Sunday and Monday on HBO, Safechuk and Robson allege they engaged in sexual relationships with Jackson starting when they both were underage. In on-camera interviews, they recall how they each first met Jackson and later became closer with him.

Both men previously testified in the singer's defense during a 1993 civil suit; in the HBO documentary, they both express regrets for that decision. Since then, they've both come forward with their own detailed allegations of extended abuse.

"One of the ways I remember it starting is Michael just sort of starting to touch my legs and touch my crotch over my pants," Robson told Gayle King on CBS This Morning last week. "It progressed to him performing oral sex on me, him showing me how to perform oral sex on him."

"As Michael started doing these sexual acts," Robson continued later, "He started talking to me about [how] 'God brought us together, we love each other and this is how we show each other our love.'"

Safechuck detailed a similar story to Robson's claiming that Jackson "introduced me to masturbation," but that he was never frightened throughout the abuse, insisting that he didn't find Jackson's alleged actions "weird."


"He said I taught him how to French kiss. And then it moves onto oral sex," Safechuck said. "It's in the context of a loving, close relationship so … there's no alarm bells going off in your head or any thoughts like that. Really, it's just, 'I love this person and we're trying to make each other happy.' And he said I was his first. But even as a kid, you don't even know what that means. You don't — you don't even question it further than that."

Leaving Neverland is available to view on HBO, along with Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland.