Oprah Winfrey discussed her decision to interview the “Leaving Neverland” accusers ― and the “hateration” she has received for it ― on “The Daily Show” on Wednesday.
When asked by host Trevor Noah about the backlash to her March HBO special, “Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland,” she said, “I haven’t had that much hateration since I did the puppy episode with Ellen.”
Winfrey was referring to the criticism she received a few decades ago for guest starring in the historic episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ 1990s sitcom in which the titular character came out as gay.
The media mogul and philanthropist has similarly received backlash for interviewing two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that Michael Jackson repeatedly sexually abused them over a span of years when they were children.
Robson and Safechuck’s stories were featured in a devastating HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which also aired last month. That documentary was criticized by the Jackson family and Michael Jackson’s estate, both denying the allegations against the late musical icon.
Jackson had faced child abuse allegations for many years before he died in 2009. The singer was criminally investigated by police in 1993 for an allegation that he repeatedly committed sexual battery on a boy. He settled with the boy’s family out of court for a reported tens of millions of dollars. The criminal case against Jackson was dropped because prosectors said the boy declined to cooperate, according to the Associated Press.
Jackson was acquitted of all charges in a separate child molestation trial in 2005. (Read more on the trial here.)
“When I first saw that documentary, I realized that a lot of people are going to get triggered ― are going to be triggered by watching it,” Winfrey told Noah. “And that a lot of people will not understand what the pattern is.”
She continued, “It’s not about one person … it is about the pattern, it is about the seduction, and people call it molestation, but there is a big seducing that goes on, and the pattern of that seducing. And that was important enough for me to take the hateration for.”
Winfrey, who revealed decades ago that she was sexually abused as a child, told Noah that she has “not wavered” about the decision to do her own HBO special on the Jackson allegations.
“You know why I’m not wavered? Because I have had girls at my school who were sexually assaulted and abused,” Winfrey said. “And I have never won a case.” Winfrey was apparently referring to a school she founded in South Africa. In 2010, a woman was found not guilty of charges that she molested several teenage girls when she was a matron there.
Critics have pointed to discrepancies in the timeline of some of the latest allegations against Jackson. But Winfrey noted ― as have experts in the field ― that people who experience sexual abuse or assault can have difficulty remembering certain details because of the way the brain processes trauma.
“When you’re in the midst of trauma, terrible things happening to you, you may not remember the exact time,” she said.
Earlier this week, Winfrey revealed that she has teamed up with Prince Harry to co-create and executive produce a mental health series for Apple, which is set to premiere in 2020.