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.
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.”