Internet rumors spread like wildfire, and we can never know how they get started. Except for the rumor I began about how Lisa Bonet walked in unannounced, just as Jason Mamoa was down on one knee, professing his love for me and promising to leave her. I’m sure you’ve heard that one.
Otherwise, Internet rumors are random, and they can emerge out of nowhere. Such is the case with one that seemed to pop up over the past 72 hours regarding the controversial Michael Jackson documentary, “Leaving Neverland.”
A barrage of posts began to pop up in my news feed claiming that HBO and Oprah were pulling the documentary “Leaving Neverland” from their programming. The content removal allegedly came about after recent revelations that the film’s Director, Dan Reed had fabricated or at best, gotten wrong, some key details pertaining to the abuse claims.
Reed’s documentary, sparked disgust and outrage when it debuted at the Sundance film festival this year as Michael Jackson supporters passionately protested the film, picketing outside the theater.
“Leaving Neverland” features two men, now adults, who claim they were sexually assaulted by Michael Jackson when they were kids. Though it sparked an initial backlash against Jackson, even with radio stations pulling his music from their playlists, public opinion has begun to shift to questioning Reed’s and the accuser’s credibility.
Accusations started to circulate about Reed having purposely manipulated the timeline of events in the documentary pertaining to a most damaging claim against Jackson. One of the accusers alleges to have been molested by the King of Pop near the clock at the Neverland Ranch train station between the years of 1988 to 1992. However, Michael Jackson biographer, Mike Smallcombe has provided official construction documents that show the station construction did not begin until 1993.
After getting called out for this and other timeline discrepancies, Reed made a pivot, blaming the accusers of mistaking the dates in which they claimed the abuse took place.
Either way, this new admission seemed to give some support to the Jackson family’s claim that the sexual abuse allegations against the King of Pop were not credible and the documentary was willfully slanderous.
What followed was an onslaught of shared memes and gifs, stating headlines such as, “HBO Pulls Leaving Neverland Off The Air” and “Oprah Deletes Interviews With Accusers From YouTube Page.” But was this true?
In the recent days since the new details of discrepancies emerged, the online community began to notice Oprah Winfrey’s social media platforms were scrubbed of all her tweets, mentions, and interviews regarding the alleged pedophilic acts. She had just interviewed the accusers a few weeks prior in a widely watched TV special.
Now it seems clear, for some reason, she is publicly backing away from the subject altogether, and this comes after weeks of being dragged on social media by MJ fans and family who accused the billionaire TV mogul of providing a platform for “lies’ by the accusers.
However, in contrast to Oprah distancing herself from the scandal, HBO recently confirmed to Yahoo News that it had no plans of removing “Leaving Neverland” from its programming schedule, and in fact, the docuseries is set to air again on the network on April 17th.
Still, the rumor persists that its getting pulled from HBO’s lineup so we’ll have to keep watching the story to see how it develops. In the meantime, the Jackson estate is suing HBO for airing the documentary claiming the network was negligent in airing falsehoods, without investigative integrity, thus defaming Michael Jackson’s legacy.
This battle promises to be an epic courtroom showdown, one in which HBO could possibly lose if the Director’s credibility is further derailed.
As for Oprah, it’s safe to assume she probably wanted to avoid pricey legal entanglement with the Jackson estate, so instead, she opted for the far less expensive option – just taking down the tweets and interviews completely, and telling the accusers to Beat it!