Amid reports that HBO has pulled the controversial Michael Jackson documentary from its schedule, as well as a claim that Oprah Winfrey’s follow-up special has been yanked from her YouTube channel, reps for both entities have refuted the rumors.
Reports emerged earlier this week that the cable network yanked “Leaving Neverland” from its airwaves ahead of schedule. Blog Rhymes with Snitch reported Tuesday, April 9, that HBO was set to run the documentary through September but instead removed it this week.
It speculated that the removal may stem from the inaccuracy in the timeline of one of Jackson’s accusers, James Safechuck, detailed concerning his sexual abuse allegations against the King of Pop. Safechuck is one of two accusers featured in the doc — the other being Wade Robson — who claim Jackson sexually abused them as boys.
Additionally, the article also mentioned a $100 million lawsuit Jackson’s estate has levied against HBO for airing the feature.
The blog also mentioned a tweet claiming Winfrey distanced herself from “Leaving Neverland” by removing interviews with Safechuck and Robson from her YouTube channel.
The report was picked up by various outlets, but HBO and Winfrey have denied its veracity.
When reached for comment by Atlanta Black Star, HBO’s executive vice president of corporate communications Quentin Schaffer said the rumor is “totally untrue.”
“”Leaving Neverland’ is available on the HBO linear feed through April 16th. Then, it will continue to be available on HBO NOW and HBO GO,” he said.
As for the claim that Winfrey has removed all mentions of her “After Neverland” special from her YouTube page, which is tied to her OWN network, that’s also been struck down.
“The episode was never posted on OWN’s Youtube channel, just promo clips from the show which were on rotation, and these episode clips are not currently available,” said Wendy Luckenbill, OWN’s senior vice president of communications, to Atlanta Black Star.
Luckenbill noted the complete episode had been available on demand and the OWN mobile app through April 8, after which it expired.
“The social posts were not removed,” she added.
Winfrey herself has spoken out about sticking by the interview, despite Jackson biographer Mike Smallcombe telling the Daily Mirror last month there were inconsistencies with Safechuck’s story about him being molested in Neverland’s train station, since it was built two years after Safechuck said his alleged abuse stopped.
“When you’re in the midst of trauma, something terrible is happening to you. You may not remember the exact time,” she said on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Wednesday. “It was that hotel, but it was that hotel. ‘Oh, it probably never happened.’”
She also said she knew “Leaving Neverland” would be triggering.
“When I first saw that documentary, I realized that a lot of people are going to get triggered, are going to be triggered by watching it, and that a lot of people will not understand what the pattern is,” she said, before stating she hosted “217 shows trying to get people to understand that it’s not about one person, that it is about the pattern.”