Jacko ‘could never be around kids’
A rabbi who was close to Michael Jackson before dramatically severing their friendship says he believes the child sexual abuse accusers in the Leaving Neverland documentary are telling the truth.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw he had always believed the music superstar was innocent of sexual abuse accusations until he watched the "devastating" documentary, which features alleged victims Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
"There's a very big difference to the past. The difference, first and foremost, is that you see two boys who are now men, who are speaking with deep pain," he told ACA.
Rabbi Boteach said he was left shocked by the allegations.
"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 told A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw.
Rabbi Boteach said Leaving Neverland would lead to a "fundamental reassessment" of Jackson's legacy.
"We've never heard allegations that were this detailed," he said.
"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."
The Jewish leader also revealed how he once warned Jackson that he could not be "the child's messiah".
"Michael said he wanted to leverage his celebrity to helping the world's children.
"So what I said to him is, 'you never meant to be the child's messiah'.
"Stop thinking that you're the one who's supposed to give all the world's neglected children attention."
Rabbi Boteach said before Leaving Neverland he thought of Jackson as a "tragic figure because of the tragedy of superstardom", comparing him to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
Rabbi Botasch said he does not believe human beings are designed to "live like gods" and the moment he felt like his advice wasn't being heeded, he cut his ties with Jackson.
"I wasn't a hanger on, I was a rabbi and that's when I felt I had to leave and that's when I severed our relationship," he told ACA.
The pair were originally introduced by a mutual friend in 1999, Rabbi Boteach said, and they instantly formed a "spiritual connection" despite their religious differences.
He said Jackson used to shock the members of the public by knocking on their door at the height of his fame.
"Michael was a Jehovah's Witness but I was amazed at how deep that spiritual bond was," he told ACA.
"I think people forget that Michael was once a missionary, he used to go from door to door.
"He used to go on Sundays. You can imagine that someone of that celebrity and fame knocks on your door, and he's giving out The Watchtower magazine, what the reaction might be."
Rabbi Boteach described Jackson as a very devoted father who possessed a gentility that was rare among celebrities.
When asked by Tracey Grimshaw if he had believed Jordan Chandler's 1993 accusations of child abuse against Jackson, Rabbi Botteach said "we didn't know".
"What I did know was, that regardless of whether it was true or not, Michael could never really again be around children."
Rabbi Boteach also met another Jackson accuser, Gavin Arvizo, during his time with the pop star.
Jackson was charged with molesting Arvizo, a child cancer survivor, but was found not guilty on all charges.
"Gavin's family arrived one day, and I was actually kind of convinced that Michael had brought them almost to impress me, to show me his good works.
"It was hard for me to believe that anything had happened, because Gavin was also there with his family," Rabbi Boteach said.
He admitted one scene in the controversial 2003 documentary Living With Michael Jackson, which featured Arvizo, left him feeling "kicked in the stomach".
In the scene, Jackson openly wondered what was wrong with sharing a bed with children.
"That's the most loving thing to do, is share your bed with someone," Jackson said in the clip.
"I could not believe that he had done that and that he had said it and that he didn't understand that there was something wrong with it," Rabbi Boteach said.
Jackson's family have denied all the allegations in the Leaving Neverland documentary.