New documentary Leaving Neverland has divided people right across the world since it premiered a few weeks ago, after two men came forward to give emotional interviews for the HBO series, claiming they were sexually abused as children by Michael Jackson.
But now acting legend Barbra Streisand, 76, has found herself in hot water over her recent comments regarding the two alleged victims – Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
The men reveal in the documentary that they first met Jackson as children, before alleging that he started grooming them and sexually abused them over a number of years. The film shows a series of photos and videos of them with Jackson in his Neverland home and on tour, with the boys’ parents aware they were staying overnight with the singer at the time. However, both mothers insist that they thought the relationships were completely innocent.
Speaking to the Times recently, Streisand insisted she believed both of them, but added: “You can say ‘molested’, but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be [at Jackson’s Neverland ranch]. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”
She also reportedly said she had “a combination of feelings. I feel bad for the children. I feel bad for him. I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him”.
Recalling meeting him herself, Streisand described Jackson as “very sweet, very childlike”, and added that she believes he must have suffered a difficult childhood himself.
“His sexual needs were his sexual needs,” Streisand told the news outlet, “coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has.”
It sparked a wave of criticism from many, with Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed writing on Twitter shortly after: “Did you really say that?” before adding: “‘His sexual needs were his sexual needs’ – is pedophilia tolerated in parts of the entertainment industry?” [sic]
Streisand has since taken to Instagram to share a lengthy apology, insisting she should have chosen her words more carefully, and reiterating that she admires both of the accusers for “speaking their truth”.
“I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his victims,” she wrote.
“I didn’t mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way… Like all survivors of sexual assault, they will have to carry this for the rest of their lives. I feel deep remorse and I hope that James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth.”
Despite there being ongoing rumours and speculation around Jackson for years, he was found not guilty on charges of molesting a teenager in 2005.
It’s meant the new documentary’s accusations have been met with a mixed response from viewers, and while some claim they’re not true, there are many more backing Robson and Safechuck and applauding them for speaking out.
Jackson’s estate has outright denied the claims against the late singer, and speaking to TMZ previously, representatives said the film was “another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson … just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible film-maker would involve himself with this project”.