March 27, 2019
This month, HBO aired the “Leaving Neverland” documentary which sparked worldwide debate. In the documentary, the late Michael Jackson was accused of abusing two men when they were still children.
Now the star’s former friend has addressed the alleged accusations leveled in the documentary.
“Leaving Neverland” featured Wade Robson and James Safechuck who both gave detailed accusations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. The men claimed that the late star had abused them repeatedly as children.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 52, was a former close friend of Jackson’s and he recently addressed the allegations in the documentary. He shared that he was left shocked after watching it.
Speaking to “A Current Affair” host Tracy Grimshaw, the rabbi said:
"I don't believe these men are lying, and I don't believe that the shame and guilt being experienced by their parents in general, maybe their mothers, in particular, is feigned.”
Boteach and the singer were introduced by a mutual friend and they stayed close from 1999 until 2001. Their friendship ended when the rabbi started feeling that his advice was not being heeded anymore.
The rabbi explained their friendship stating, "I wasn't a fan, I was a friend. I wasn't a hanger-on. I was a rabbi, and I felt that I had to leave, and that's when I severed our relationship."
When they met in 1991, the musician was already facing accusations of child molestation. To end the Jordan Chandler case, Jackson paid $23 million.
Boteach explained that at the time:
"I didn't know if to believe it or not. We didn't know. What I did know was, that regardless of whether it was true or not, Michael could never again really be around children."
The rabbi shared that before the “Leaving Neverland” documentary aired and he saw the "horrible and painful" allegations, he had viewed Jackson as a "tragic" figure.
The rabbi stated that "Super-stardom was a uniquely American creation, and Michael Jackson was a uniquely American tragedy.” He added, "We are the ones that gave the world Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe, and Michael Jackson. And none of them had a positive demise."
While he was still close to Jackson, Boteach got to meet another accuser, Gavin Arvizo. The musician was charged with molesting Arvizo but he was found not guilty on all charges.
The rabbi explained why he’d believed Jackson over Arvizo saying, "It was hard for me to believe that anything had happened, because Gavin was also there with his family.” He continued, "By the time I met Michael, he wasn't really around children at all. He wasn't around anyone, to be perfectly honest."
A scene from the controversial 2003 documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” left Boteach feeling "kicked in the stomach.” The documentary featured Arvizo.
The scene showed the singer openly wondering what was wrong with sharing a bed with children. In the clip, Jackson said: "That's the most loving thing to do, is share your bed with someone.”
Speaking about the scene the rabbi stated:
"I could not believe that he had done that and that he had said it and that he didn't understand that there was something wrong with it. It's astonishing."
Even though the first documentary brought forth the accusations against Jackson, Boteach felt that “Leaving Neverland” would lead to a "fundamental reassessment" of the musician’s legacy. He explained, "We've never heard allegations that were this detailed.”
The rabbi continued:
"We've never really seen the faces of the accusers as they make these allegations, and we've never really heard the family members who had to shoulder that pain."
The late singer’s family has denied all the allegations.
Legendary singer Diana Ross defended Jackson after the documentary came out. She wrote on Twitter: “This is what’s on my heart this morning. I believe and trust that Michael Jackson was and is a magnificent incredible force to me and to many others.”
Ross urged people to stop criticizing Jackson, writing “Stop in the name of love,” a reference to the title of one of her biggest music hits with the Supremes.