After being denounced by the Michael Jackson Estate, the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland premiered Sunday on HBO.
The four-hour documentary, which will conclude with part two tonight, shares claims of abuse from Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 41, who spent time with Jackson from a very young age. Robson and Safechuck's families were also interviewed for the documentary, adding more details about Jackson's relationship with Robson and Safechuck.
"Leaving Neverland isn't a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death," the Michael Jackson Estate said in a statement in January. "The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact."
The Michael Jackson Estate also called Robson and Safechuck "admitted liars" while noting that their claims had previously been dismissed by a judge.
"The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred," the statement continued. "They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers."
Part one of Leaving Neverland detailed how Robson and Safechuck first met Jackson. For Robson, who was born in Brisbane, Australia, it was after winning a dance contest at the age of five. A few years after their meeting, which took place while Jackson was on tour in Australia, the Robson family traveled from Australia to Los Angeles, where they were invited to Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
On the first night, Robson and his sister slept in Jackson's bed. According to Robson, he woke up the following night to Jackson crying about how the family would be leaving the next day. Then, while the rest of his family went to the Grand Canyon, 7-year-old Robson stayed with Jackson at Neverland.
It was during this time, Robson alleges, that Jackson started making physical contact with him.
"The first thing I remember is Michael sort of moving his hands across my legs," Robson claimed. "And then his hands got to my crotch area."
Robson went on to allege, "And then his hands went underneath my pants and started touching my penis underneath my pants...and then him guiding me to do the same thing to him."
While Robson would later allege that the abuse went on for years, he initially testified in defense of Jackson in his 2005 sexual abuse trial, where Jackson was acquitted. But then in May 2013, about four years after Jackson's death, Robson filed a claim against Jackson's estate, alleging that he was abused by the late singer from the age of seven to 14. He would later tell the Today show that Jackson had manipulated and brainwashed him into lying about years of sexual activity with him, stating, "He would play and train me for these [court] scenarios."
In 2015, a superior court judge ruled that Robson's claim is untimely and should be dismissed. A year later, Robson filed new negligence claims against MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures, two companies owned by Jackson. In Dec. 2017, a judge ruled that the groups were not liable for Robson's exposure to Jackson, he did not rule on the credibility of the allegations.
As for Safechuck, he met Jackson on the set of a Pepsi commercial in 1987, when he was just nine. Jackson and the Safechuck family went on to have a close relationship with Jackson, enjoying the luxury of the celebrity life with vacations, hotels and first class accommodations. At the age of 10, Safechuck was even invited on Jackson's tour.
In Leaving Neverland, Safechuck claimed, "In Paris, he introduced me to masturbation, and that's how it started."
He added, "It felt like we were bonding, in a way."
In 2014, The Daily Beast reported that Safechuck had added his name to Robson's May 2013 lawsuit against Jackson. The same lawsuit that went on to be dismissed by a judge.
Part two of Leaving Neverland airs tonight on HBO.