Wade Robson met Michael Jackson after winning a dance contest in his native Australia when he was five years old. James Safechuck first met the pop singer while filming a Pepsi commercial around his ninth birthday. In an explosive new documentary set to premiere on HBO this Sunday, Safechuck and Robson claim that Jackson went on to sexually abuse them for years.
In their first TV interview about the film, "Leaving Neverland," the men tell "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King how the pop icon's attention wasn't strange to them at all at the time. It made them feel special.
"It was, again, the feeling was, 'Out of all the kids in the world, here I am and Michael chose me' and he also told me that, you know, 'I've never done this with anybody else.' Yeah. So that was more, too. Wow," Robson said. "He chooses me and he loves me."
As Robson described those feelings, Safechuck nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I mean, it's all the same ... you know, he did the same thing to me, as well," he said.
"Were you frightened or thinking, 'This is weird or wrong?'" King asked.
"No. No," Safechuck said. "It's in the context of a loving, close relationship so … there's no alarm bells going off in your head or any thoughts like that. Really, it's just, 'I love this person and we're trying to make each other happy.' And he said I was his first. But even as a kid, you don't even know what that means. You don't — you don't even question it further than that," Safechuck said.
Thehas denounced Robson and Safechuck as "opportunists" and "admitted liars" and in a separate interview told King they believe the men's allegations are motivated by money, something they both deny. They also said they were not compensated for participating in the documentary. Robson and Safechuck sued the Jackson estate, but their lawsuits were dismissed because of the statute of limitations. They are appealing the decision.
The documentary has faced criticism for not seeking comment from the musician's family or estate, which sued HBO last week, calling the film a "one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself."
Asked to address that criticism,"We know that the family and the estate[s] and Jackson during his lifetime and his lawyers all deny that any sexual abuse took place and those views are strongly represented in the film. We give those views a lot of time in the film on screen and we have people casting doubt on Wade's change of heart."
Jackson has been accused of sexually abusing young boys before. In early 1994, he settled a civil suit with the family of Jordan Chandler, a boy who had accused the pop star of sexually abusing him. In 2005, when Jackson faced criminal charges, Robson took the stand and his testimony is often credited with helping Jackson win in court. Safechuck has also said before that Jackson never harmed him, prompting skepticism from Jackson's family and estate about why the men decided to come forward after his death. They don't believe either of the men would have come forward if Jackson was still alive.
"I mean, it's hard to speculate as to what would be the situation if Michael was still alive. If I guess, if I could speculate — if Michael was still alive and all of the other rest of the details of my life were the same, meaning I became a father, right? And I went through the same process that I did of this realization and going through the healing process, my belief is that we'd still be doing this," Robson said.
The answer is more complicated for Safechuck.
"I don't – yeah, I don't know. Would I have taken this to my grave? I certainly planned on doing that," Safechuck said. "I had no expectations of ever telling anyone. So, you know if he — if he was still alive, yeah, I don't know. Maybe I would have taken it to my grave."
Robson believes that Jackson abused "many" other boys. "I find it hard to believe that he had boys around for any other reason than to sexually abuse them."
The Jackson family vehemently denies Robson and Safechuck's claims. Jackson also denied any allegations of abuse throughout his life.
Tune in to "CBS This Morning" on Thursday, Feb. 28, for their extended conversation