Members of the late Michael Jackson's family defend the late King of Pop in a new documentary seen as a rebuttal to the controversial HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
In the latter production, which premiered in March, Wade Robson and James Safechuck detail what they say were years of child sex abuse by the singer. The Jackson family has spoken out against the accusers, denounced Leaving Neverland and filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO. Meanwhile, several top brands have distanced themselves from Michael in wake of the controversy.
The new documentary, Neverland Firsthand: Investigating the Michael Jackson Documentary, spans 30 minutes and was recently released on YouTube. The production features interviews with Michael's nephew Taj Jackson and niece Brandi Jackson, as well as with Brad Sundberg, the singer's longtime technical director, who also worked at Neverland Ranch, where Robson and Safechuck said much of the alleged abuse took place.
In a 2005 criminal trial, the King of Pop was acquitted of charges of molesting a different boy, at his Neverland ranch. A few years after the singer's 2009 death, Wade and James had filed lawsuits against his estate, claiming sexual misconduct by him. Their cases were dismissed.
When asked he thinks Michael was "such a repeated target for formal lawsuits," Taj said in Neverland Firsthand, "When you have a certain niceness, people take advantage."
Taj has repeatedly defended Michael and even set up a GoFundMe for a rebuttal documentary a few months ago.
Brandi, who says she dated Wade for 10 years, said in the new documentary that her ex "has always been a bit of an opportunist," adding, "and he kind of gets it, I'm going to say, I feel comfortable saying this, he gets this from his mother, and he knows how to position himself into different situations that will benefit him in a financial way."
"He's saying that he was in a relationship with my uncle, that they were in love, and that they were having a relationship, if you will," she said. "He's saying that my uncle kept him from women, which is not true. We were just talking about how my uncle put us together. It would discredit the things that he's trying to claim, and I find it fascinating that he thinks he's able to just erase 10 years of his life."
She said that if she were to talk to Wade, she would "confront him about his lies," adding, "I would tell him to stop lying. I'm not curious as to why he's doing it. He needs to stop. I don't care what his reasoning is, as far as trying to be relevant, desperate for money, whatever it is, these lies needs to stop and it's not OK. This man, my uncle took care of him and did very well by him and his family, and he knows that."
Wade and Safechuck have not responded to the comments made in the Neverland Firsthand documentary.
In the new film, Sundberg described seeing Wade a couple of times at the recording studio.
"Number one, I'm a dad. At that point, I had two daughters. I've worked with kids in my church for years. I'm very aware of kids. Not in a million years did I ever see a child around Michael Jackson that looked like they had been distressed, hurt, abused," he said.
He added, "I can't, you know, put my hand on a Bible and say, 'Absolutely nothing happened in that room.' It's just, there weren't that many instances. I remember seeing Wade once or twice at the studio, was not a regular occurrence at all, and there just, there wasn't a sense of wrongdoing or 'Oh my goodness, what's going on?'"
Neverland, he said, was "such a peaceful, fun place designed very specifically for kids that were underprivileged or burn victims, or, you know, sick kids, Make-A-Wish kids."