NEW YORK – Michael Jackson’s family on Monday lashed out against a new documentary renewing focus on allegations the singer sexually abused young boys, calling the subsequent social media outrage a “public lynching.”
Dubbing the late King of Pop an “easy target,” the Jackson family said they were “furious” over the bombshell “Leaving Neverland” expose that premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival.
The family noted that prior to his 2009 death Jackson had faced a lengthy investigation, including a raid on his Neverland Ranch in California and a criminal trial concerning another teenager, in which he was acquitted.
“Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family — that is the Jackson way,” the statement said. “But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him.
“Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.”
The new four-hour documentary — which is set to air on HBO later this year — reportedly included graphic testimony from accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, leaving Sundance viewers shell-shocked.
The two men who are now in their 30s allege Jackson sexually abused them when they were 7 and 10.
Robson testified during the 2005 trial of Jackson, and both men have filed lawsuits against Jackson’s estate as adults in recent years, though both cases were dismissed for technical reasons.
Prior to its premiere the Jackson family had slammed the documentary earlier this month as a “pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
Director Dan Reed, who is behind a documentary on the 2015 terror attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, at the time defended his lengthy two-part documentary, named for Jackson’s famed California ranch.
“If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to,” he said in a statement.
The documentary’s release comes on the heels of another explosive docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” in which accusers of the R&B superstar detail disturbing allegations against him including sexual battery, false imprisonment and having sex with minors.
Jackson, who died on June 25, 2009 after being given an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, faced multiple allegations of child sex abuse during his lifetime.
In addition to his 2005 acquittal the performer paid a $15 million court settlement in 1994 over allegations involving another child.