Airing on HBO in two parts, the documentary Leaving Neverland centers on Wade Robson and James Safechuck, now 36 and 40, respectively, two men who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. The singer was never charged for any crimes committed against either subject, and in 2005 was acquitted of all molestation charges related to another accuser. In 2013, Robson went on The Today Show to tell his story. A clip of his sit-down with former anchor Matt Lauer appears in Leaving Neverland, but the full video of Wade Robson's Today Show interview is still available online.
The choreographer and dance teacher's career began when he entered Michael Jackson dance impersonation contest as a kid. Speaking to Dance Magazine, Robson said, “The first dancing I ever saw was in the “Thriller” video. I think I was two years old and I started trying to do some of the movements. By the time I was four, I learned the whole thing.” Despite being younger than the official age range of the contest at five years old, he won, and performed with Jackson onstage at his concert the following night.
He moved from Australia to America with his mother and sister when he was eight, according to the outlet. Jackson helped shepherd his dance career, and Robson appeared in the videos for "Jam" and "Heal The World."
In the nine-minute Today Show clip from 2013, Robson alleged that Jackson abused him between the ages of seven and 14, saying that the singer "performed sexual acts on me and forced me to perform sexual acts on him" without going into greater detail. "I understand completely how hard it is to understand this," Robson added. In Leaving Neverland he sums up the contradictory elements of their relationship: "‘Michael was one of the kindest, most gentle, loving, caring people I knew. And he also sexually abused me for seven years."
In Leaving Neverland, Robson explains the reason he testified on Jackson's behalf during the 2005 trial, and did not come forward about the abuse until adulthood. "I said what I understood, and I said what I was able to say. From seven years old, from day one of the abuse, Michael told me we loved each other, and that this was love, an expression of our love," he says. "He would follow that up with, 'If you ever tell anyone what we’re doing, both of our lives and our careers will be over.'"
In the Today Show interview he claimed, "It was complete manipulation and brainwashing. He would role play and train me for these scenarios."
Per People, Robson sued Michael Jackson's estate in 2013 for the alleged abuse (Jackson died in 2009), and later added two of its companies in an amendment. The suit was dismissed in 2015; the judge ruling that none of those entities were liable. There was no ruling issued about the credibility of the allegations.
In January, ahead of the Leaving Neverland premiere, Michael Jackson's estate issued a statement, per IndieWire. It reads:
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson…Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. This so called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”
In response, HBO released the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
"Our plans remain unchanged. The two-part documentary, Leaving Neverland will air as scheduled on Sunday, Mar. 3 and Monday, Mar. 4. Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors' accounts. People should reserve judgment until they see the film."
On The Today Show six years ago, Robson refuted the accusation that he was motivated by money. "I've lived in silence and denial for 22 years and I can't spend another moment in that," he said. "I'm never going to go away with this for the sake of money. I'm never going to be silenced for money. That's not going to happen."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.