While Michael Jackson’s friends and loved ones continue to grapple with the accusations levied against the King of Pop in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, Diana Ross has joined the chorus of those speaking out in defense of her deceased friend.
Just days after Barbra Streisand made comments in an interview that seemingly defended and justified Jackson’s alleged pedophilia and sexual abuse, saying that his underage victims (accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck) were “thrilled to be there,” and faced intense backlash for saying so, Ross issued a statement of her own. While hers isn’t nearly as specific as Streisand’s — she didn’t weigh in on the veracity of the claims against Jackson or attempt to discredit his accusers, at least — she did defend Jackson’s legacy. “I believe and trust that Michael Jackson was and is A magnificent incredible force to me and to many others. STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE,” she tweeted on Saturday.
As many, many commenters were quick to point out, she’s not…technically…wrong? For Ross and the “many others” she mentioned, he surely was an inspiring person and talented musician. But that doesn’t make the accusations against him any less credible. A person can be more than one thing, and it’s actually quite common for serial abusers to present a charming, pleasant personality to their communities, because it keeps people from suspecting them. Ross has a right to talk about the Jackson that she knew, but that doesn’t mean an honest discussion about his legacy and his alleged history of abuse needs to “stop,” even if it is “in the name of love.”
Meanwhile, amid the backlash to her comments, Streisand released a statement to People apologizing for the pain her words had caused. “To be crystal clear, there is no situation or circumstance where it is OK for the innocence of children to be taken advantage of by anyone,” she said. “The stories these two young men [in the documentary] shared were painful to hear, and I feel nothing but sympathy for them.”
Streisand also clarified comments she’d made in the interview blaming Robson and Safechuck’s parents as primarily responsible for the alleged abuse. “The single most important role of being a parent is to protect their children. It’s clear that the parents of the two young men were also victimized and seduced by fame and fantasy,” she said, before concluding, “I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his victims, because the words as printed do not reflect my true feelings…I didn’t mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way. Like all survivors of sexual assault, they will have to carry this for the rest of their lives. I feel deep remorse and I hope that James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth.”
To report a case of suspected child abuse, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.