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Michael Jackson's family slams "Leaving Neverland" accusers, says slumber parties were "innocent"

Michael Jackson's family defends pop icon
Michael Jackson's family defends pop icon as "kid at heart" amid abuse claims 04:51

Michael Jackson's family is defending the late pop star over claims of sexual abuse in an explosive new HBO documentary set to air Sunday. In "Leaving Neverland," Wade Robson and James Safechuck allege Jackson abused them for years when they were children – claims the Jackson family vehemently denies.

Robson, who met Jackson when he was five and Safechuck, who filmed a commercial with Jackson around his ninth birthday, say that for years the singer invited them to his homes and molested them. The men sued the Jackson estate, but their lawsuits were dismissed because of the statute of limitations. They are appealing.

Jackson has faced similar allegations in the past. He settled a 1993 case and was acquitted in a 2005 criminal trial. Throughout it all, Jackson denied any abuse, but continued to surround himself with children, even inviting them into his bed.

Members of the Jackson family are vehemently denying claims of sexual abuse in a new documentary about Michael Jackson. From left to right: Taj Jackson, Jackie Jackson, Marlon Jackson, and Tito Jackson.  CBS News

In their first TV interview about the documentary, Michael Jackson's nephew Taj, and brothers Jackie, Marlon and Tito tell "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King that they believe Safechuck and Robson's claims are lies motivated by money and explain why they won't be seeing the documentary. They also address questions over the optics of Jackson's famed Neverland Ranch slumber parties.

"It has been well documented your brother spoke many times about sharing his bed with young children. Did any of you, at any time—" King started.

"Well, see ... when you phrased that, you know, 'sharing' his bed, young kids have sleepovers, camp out and just everybody in the bed and fall asleep. His kids were there. Taj was little at the time. And they all fall asleep in the bed and watching movies. And so you can twist it, saying, 'Sharing his bed,' but, yes, but it makes you think something else," Marlon said.

Taj said he spent much of his childhood at his uncle's Neverland Ranch and took part in many of the slumber parties with children there.

"I grew up in it. So for me, it wasn't odd," Taj said. "You know, I think to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I'm not oblivious to what it sounds like. But when you're actually there in that atmosphere, and you're around it, and you're watching movies, yes, with his kids ...  it's very innocent. But I think the fault on my uncle was he just – he didn't have that bone in his body to look at it the other way ... his naiveté was his downfall in a way. And I think that's what hurts me more than anything is knowing his innocence, but then knowing how the world is."

Michael Jackson's family on "Leaving Neverland" accusers: "It's all about money" 06:22

Taj, who said he's a survivor of sexual abuse by a relative on his mother's side, shared notes of encouragement that he got from his uncle when he was a child – similar to ones Safechuck and Robson say they received. One was signed, "Love, Uncle Michael."

"I heard in the movie that there were actually things that were called love letters," Taj said. "My uncle gave letters like that all the time to people that he cared about and there's nothing salacious about it, when you actually know there's a lot of people – he even did it to fans."

In early 1994, Jackson settled a civil suit with the family of Jordan Chandler, a boy who had accused the pop star of sexually abusing him. Despite agreeing to pay out $22 million, Jackson continued to surround himself with young children.

"There are interviews with Michael where he has said, you know, he has said ... 'People spent time in my bed, it was loving, it was, it was a fun time. It was pure. And anyone who thinks anything other than that just has a dirty mind,'" King said.

Taj Jackson shared notes of encouragement that he got from his uncle when he was a child. CBS News

"When we grew up, comin' up, traveling on the road, we was older. But Marlon and Michael was much younger … They never had a regular childhood life. Michael always had been a kid at heart, always … He loved Disneyland. He tried to create that world himself. He loved that world. He loved making kids happy. His whole life was to make the whole world come together. That's what it's all about, especially children. He loved that," Jackie said.

"I mean I think just knowing my uncle and spending thousands, thousands of hours with him, he would always ask us questions, like, 'What was this like? What was it like going to a birthday party?' You know?" Taj said.

"Because he didn't have that?" King asked.

"He didn't have that. He lived vicariously through me and my brothers and, you know his nephews," Taj said.

"None of you, at any time, said, 'You know, Michael, this doesn't look good. I know your intentions are pure. But this doesn't look good.' None of you, at any time, said that to him?" King asked.

"I did," Taj said, adding, "I said, 'Maybe you should just hang around family.' And he said, 'Well, then I'm not doing God's work then. I'm not helping people' ... My uncle always liked to help people ... That was my uncle's purpose. That's what he felt he was doing. And he felt he connected with kids because that was his childhood."

Asked whether they're worried about what the documentary will do to Jackson's legacy, Jackie said, "No, not at all."

"But it does seem to be a day of reckoning of many of our iconic figures," King said.

"And we don't want to get in the way of that but you have to shine the light brightly on both sides," Taj said.

"Leaving Neverland" director Dan Reed defends explosive Michael Jackson documentary 09:03

The Jackson family, though steadfast in their conviction that its claims are all lies, have not seen the documentary and don't plan on it. They said they don't need to.

"Well, I don't care no 'cause I know my brother. I don't have to see the documentary. I know Michael. I'm the oldest brother. I know my brother. I know what he stood for, what he was all about, bringing the world together, making kids happy," Jackie said.

All four believe he was never abusive to children in a sexual way.

"And the people that really knew him, they know the truth, too," Jackie said

The Jacksons also take issue with filmmaker Dan Reed, who they say never reached out to the family for their side of the story.

"So he took what they were saying – face value – as to be true. But he trusted them – which there's nothing wrong with that – but you must verify. Because when you start throwing allegations out about someone, then you got to go back and say, 'Wait a minute, let me make sure I'm telling the right thing. Make sure they're not selling me a bunch of goods.' Which they were," Jackie said.

King told the family that she spoke to a child psychologist, an expert in abuse, who said it's extremely rare for boys to make false claims of inappropriate sexual conduct against a man in particular. To that, Taj replied, "Unless you're Michael Jackson."

Wade has called Jackson one of the kindest, gentlest and most loving people he's ever known who helped him creatively. At the same time, he alleges Jackson sexually abused him for years. Asked if he thought both those things could be true, Marlon said, "Michael helped him in in what he wanted to do in – with videos and music from that side of things. But if Neverland was so horrifying for him … why would you keep going back?"

"We weren't there and nobody was there. But the facts are public record. I mean what he testified under oath are all the different things that he said. Those are the facts," Marlon said.

In the past, both Safechuck and Robson have said that Jackson never harmed them. In 1993 Safechuck gave a statement to police for a molestation case involving another boy. No criminal charges were filed. In 2005, when Jackson faced criminal charges, Robson took the stand. His testimony is often credited for helping Jackson win in court.

"Wade (Robson) and James (Safechuck) both say – Wade, in particular, has admitted,'Yes, I lied on the stand. Yes, I lied under oath. Yes, I lied to my parents. Yes, I lied to everyone I cared about because I wanted to protect Michael.' He did not want to be the one, in his words, that harmed Michael Jackson. Do you not believe him when he says that?" King asked.

"I do not believe it when he says that. Because we know our brother … Michael wouldn't do anything like that. And then he waits until after the passing of Michael, 10 years later, to come out and state this? And he's – they're still in court with the estate, suing him for hundreds of millions of dollars," Marlon said.

Leaving Neverland (2019) | Official Trailer | HBO by HBO on YouTube

They believe the men waited until Jackson was no longer alive to defend himself.

"Wade's never protected anyone in his life," Taj said.

Though Jackson's sisters have remained silent, his brothers and nephew insist everyone in the family feels the same way.

"I think there's a fear, as well, to put more energy to it and more eyeballs to it. I think that's why my Aunt Janet hasn't said anything, because she doesn't want [to] make it any bigger," Taj said of Michael's sister, Janet Jackson.

"It's always been about money. I hate to say it ... when it's my uncle, it's almost like they see a blank check, and they and because they've been taken care of their whole life ... And I think that's the problem. These people felt that they're owed something. You know, instead of working for something, they blame everything on my uncle," Taj said.

Some argue there's a lot at stake financially for the Jackson family, something all four deny. Emotionally, maybe they said, but financially, no.

"We don't get anything from the estate," Marlon said.

Marlon wants people know the documentary "is not telling the truth."

"There has not been, not one piece of evidence that corroborates their story. And they're not interested in doing that."

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