Not only was Michael Jackson one of the most successful and revered pop artists in history, but he had long had a reputation for being a champion of children’s causes, supporting many children’s charities, and hosting numerous children at his Neverland Ranch. As a result, the world was shocked when abuse allegations began to surface in the early ’90s. Controversy continued to follow the embattled pop star, until and after his death in 2009.
Jackson was first accused of child sexual abuse in August of 1993. The alleged victim was a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler. The boy’s mother initially denied that Jackson had abused her son, but then recanted. Jackson claimed the allegations were fabricated by the boy’s jealous father, who was seeking to extort Jackson for money. The controversy heated up when Michael’s sister, La Toya, accused Jackson of being a pedophile, but she later retracted her accusation. Police raided Jackson’s home and found books and photographs that featured young boys with little or no clothing, but the books were legal to own and no charges resulted. In January of 1994, Jackson settled with the family of Jordan Chandler for $25 million. No criminal charges were ever filed.
New allegations of abuse arose in 2003, as the result of the broadcast of the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” in which the pop star was shown holding hands and talking about sleeping arrangements with a 12-year-old boy. Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of intoxicating a minor on December 18, 2003. Jackson was tried and acquitted of all charges in 2005.
Jackson died in 2009, but that wasn’t the end of allegations against him. Choreographer Wade Robson, who had been a friend of Jackson’s during childhood, filed a lawsuit in 2013 alleging sexual abuse by the pop star. A similar suit by James Safechuck followed in 2014. Both cases were dismissed and later featured in the 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland.”
Jackson’s family has called the film a “public lynching.” His long-time attorney, John Branca, has implied that if Jackson were still alive, he would likely successfully sue Robson and Safechuck for libel.
While Jackson has never been convicted of any crime, the allegations continue to stir controversy and mar his legacy. Some fans believe the pop star was merely the victim of money-hungry false accusers, while others think there is some truth to the allegations.