“The Jackson Estate will seek all damages proximately caused by HBO’s reprehensible disparagement of Michael Jackson, which could exceed $100 million should HBO succeed in the damage it is intending to cause to the legacy of Michael Jackson,” reads the complaint, which was filed on Thursday, January 21.
The lawsuit claims that the “documentary is “posthumous character assassination” of the late musician because it only shows one side of the story. “Michael Jackson is innocent. Period,” the complaint begins.
Attorney Howard Weitzman told Us in a statement: “HBO breached its agreement not to disparage Michael Jackson by producing and selling to the public a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself. HBO could have and should have ensured that Leaving Neverland was properly sourced, fact-checked and a fair and balanced representation. Instead they chose to fund and produce a film where they knew the two subjects had for many years testified under oath and told family, friends and law enforcement that Mr. Jackson did nothing inappropriate to either of them.”
HBO responded to the suit in a statement to Deadline on Thursday. “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves
“Nearly four years after Michael died they suddenly changed their recollections, sued the Estate of Michael Jackson for hundreds of millions of dollars and had all of their lawsuits dismissed, yet they are still seeking money, having appealed,” Weitzman continued. “HBO and the director were well aware of their financial motives and that ample opposing facts are available from numerous sources, but made the unconscionable decision to bury any evidence casting doubt on their chosen narrative.”
He added: “Had they made an objective film it would have allowed viewers to make up their own minds about these allegations, instead of having a television network dictate to them that they must accept these false claims about Michael Jackson.”
Leaving Neverland premiered in late January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The documentary features two accusers — Wade Robson and James Safechuck — who claim they were sexually abused by the “Man in the Mirror” singer as children in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Jackson was previously accused of molesting two other young boys. He vehemently denied the allegations, settled out of court with the first child in 1994 and was found not guilty in a 2005 trial with the second boy. Jackson died in June 2009 at the age of 50.
One day after the movie premiered, the former child star’s estate came to his defense in a statement obtained by Us. “Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary — it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” the statement read. “We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice.”
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