‘Leaving Neverland’ Director Calls Dave Chappelle’s Comments on Michael Jackson Accusers ‘Revolting’

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Dan Reed, who directed Leaving Neverland took home an Emmy on Saturday night for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special. His project for HBO shined a light on alleged abuse by Michael Jackson, featuring interviews with Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

Dave Chappelle made some headlines recently after saying in his Netflix special Sticks & Stones that the pop star’s accusers aren’t credible.

“I’m going to say something I’m not allowed to say, but I gotta be real: I don’t believe those [expletives],” Chappelle said.

Reed, who conducted long multi-day interviews with them, however, does. “This is always a difficult thing to say, but I listened to Wade’s story and [realized] as a 7-year-old, he entered into a twisted…version of a romantic adult relationship [with Jackson],” the documentarian says. “If he was trying to bamboozle me, he wouldn’t have had to say he fell in love with [Jackson]. That made it much more credible to me.

Dan Reed poses with the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special Award for Leaving Neverland at the 2019 Creative Arts Emmys (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

“Like most people, I thought child sexual abuse was when some kind of predator in a stained raincoat grabs a kid from outside school and drags him into an alley and does something violent. That’s not how it happens – 80 percent of the time it’s a trusted friend, someone you look up to, gains your confidence, grooms the child and his family.”

TV Insider asked Reed if he had a response to Chappelle’s stance. “I know these guys,” he said. “I believe their stories. They were basically raped as kids and taken advantage of. Mocking the victims of child sexual abuse is not a particularly clever thing to do. Chappelle is riding on a wave of being contrary, controversial. He got some laughs.”

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Reed theorizes that some of the pushback against his interview subjects is a result of #CancelMichaelJackson hashtags that popped up on social media last March. “I never said to ‘cancel Michael,’” Reed points out. “There’s nothing in my documentary that says don’t listen to his music or cancel his work.”

That said, Reed finds Chappelle’s remarks “revolting.”

Dan Reed/HBO

“It wasn’t just something [he said] off the cuff — it was a sustained attack on these guys. You can make comedy out of so many things. Why not do something brave instead of crapping on victims of child rape?”

Leaving Neverland, Streaming Now, HBO Go