The family of the late great Michael Jackson has released a statement in response to the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Leaving Neverland. Monday morning, the Jackson Family called HBO‘s four-hour documentary—which features allegations of child molestation—the work of “admitted liars.” The family also criticized the resulting coverage of the documentary, which premiered at the Park City festival Friday, and engendered strong reactions from those in attendance.
“People have always loved to go after Michael,” the family told Complex in a statement. “He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.”
The family adds that Michael, who they say “always turned the other cheek,” is not here to defend himself against the allegations included in the increasingly controversial film. By their assessment, the allegations would not have been made were he still alive.
“But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him,” they said, further arguing that the filmmakers are “not interested in the truth” while criticizing their interviewing methods. “That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories,” the family said. “But the truth is on our side.”
This isn’t the first official word from the pop icon’s family on HBO’s upcoming film. Previously, the family released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter following the film’s premiere. In another statement earlier this month, the family pointed to Michael’s previous collaborations with HBO:
Early reviews for Leaving Neverland, though not uniformly complimentary of the film’s cinematic value, have praised its attention to detail. David Fear, writing for Rolling Stone, said while the film “has clearly chosen a side,” the results are difficult to “shake off” after viewing. “It does not discount what these men say, nor does it leave out the fact recent lawsuits muddy the waters a bit,” he wrote in his review.
Leaving Neverland is set to air on HBO this spring.