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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was friends with Michael Jackson. He now believes his accusers.

A former close friend of Michael Jackson believes Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s allegations of abuse against the late pop star.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was close with Jackson for two years from 1999-2001, and he told A Current Affair he was left shocked by the claims made in Leaving Neverland.

In the film, Robson, 36, who was acquainted with Jackson during a dance competition aged five, and Safechuck, 42, who featured with the deceased singer in a Pepsi commercial, are interviewed about the abuse they claim happened to them as preteens in the 1980s and 90s.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on A Current Affair. Post continues below video.

Video by Channel 9

They claim the heinous crimes spanned several years, and not only were they sworn to secrecy, they were coerced by their attacker to testify on his behalf against allegations from other young victims.

In an interview with A Current Affair, Boteach described the documentary as “devastating”.

He said he became close to Jackson after the pair were introduced by a mutual friend, but after two years he cut the singer off as he didn’t feel like Jackson was listening to his advice.

“I wasn’t a fan, I was a friend,” Boteach told A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw.

“I wasn’t a hanger-on. I was a rabbi, and I felt that I had to leave, and that’s when I severed our relationship.”

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky takes you through the fall out and the facts of Leaving Neverland. Post continues below audio.

By 1992, Jackson had already faced accusations of child sexual abuse and had paid the family of accuser Jordan Chandler $23 million to end the case.

Rabbi Boteach also met another accuser, Gavin Arvizo. Jackson was charged with molesting Arvizo but was found not guilty on all charges.

“It was hard for me to believe that anything had happened, because Gavin was also there with his family,” Rabbi Boteach said.

“By the time I met Michael, he wasn’t really around children at all. He wasn’t around anyone, to be perfectly honest.”

Michael Jackson and Rabbi Boteach in 2001.
Michael Jackson and Rabbi Boteach in 2001. Image: Getty.
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Rabbi Boteach said that before viewing Leaving Neverland, he had seen Jackson as a "tragic" figure ruined by super-stardom, but he admitted there was one scene in another documentary - 2003's Living With Michael Jackson - that disturbed him.

In the scene, Jackson said "the most loving thing to do is share your bed with someone," as a young boy rests his head on the pop star's shoulder.

"You cannot share a bed with someone else's child. That is immoral, that is unacceptable, it's deplorable," Rabbi Boteach said of the scene.

"I remember watching it and feeling that I had been kicked in the stomach. I could not believe that he had done that and that he had said that and that he didn't understand that there was something wrong."

Of Robson and Safechuck's accusations, he says he doesn't believe they are lying.

"I don't believe these men are lying and I don't believe that the shame and guilt being experienced by their parents in general, maybe their mothers, in particular, is feigned."

He said that while Jackson was exonerated on charges in the past, Leaving Neverland is the first time we've heard such detailed allegations.

"We've never really seen the faces of the accusers as they make these allegations, and we've never really heard the family members who had to shoulder that pain."

Jackson's family have denied all allegations in Leaving Neverland.

Read more on this topic:

Without us noticing, it looks like Michael Jackson groomed us for decades.

The signs Michael Jackson was grooming the children he was close to that so many missed.

"It wasn't going to mean anything": Why Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley.

'Blanket' Jackson was just seven when his father died. This week he stopped talking.

The two boys who followed Wade Robson into Michael Jackson's bed insist they weren't abused.

Debbie Rowe says she gifted Michael Jackson two children because he was a 'wonderful man'.

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