After Dave Chappelle said he does not believe Michael Jackson molested Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the two accusers have spoken out.
“I’m heartbroken for all those children who look to see how they will be received when they finally find the courage to speak out about their sexual abuse,” Safechuck told TMZ.
“I just want to reach out to other survivors and let them know that we can’t let this type of behavior silence us. Together we are strong.”
In his new Netflix comedy special, Sticks & Stones, Chappelle calls the documentary Leaving Neverland, in which Robson and Safechuck detail their sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson, “f**king gross.”
“I’m gonna say something that I’m not allowed to say. But I gotta be real. I don’t believe these motherf**kers. I do not believe them,” Chappelle says.
“I don’t think he did it, but you know what? Even if he did do it…you know what I mean? I mean, it’s Michael Jackson. I know more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives, but it wasn’t no goddamn Michael Jackson, was it?” he added.
Robson’s lawyer Vince Finaldi responded to Chappelle’s comments by focusing on the shame that sexual abuse victims experience and endure.
“Although Mr. Chappelle is entitled to his opinions, however misinformed they may be, it’s unfortunate that he has chosen to use his platform to shame sexual abuse victims, and spread his ignorance of sexual abuse and the way it is perpetrated upon children, in an attempt to resurrect his career.”
Michael Jackson’s estate came out in support of Chappelle’s comments, calling Robson and Safechuck “liars” who spent “years exploiting Michael’s generosity.”
“The whole documentary is bogus. Robson and Safechuck are liars and they know the truth, which is why Dave’s comedy touched a nerve.”
Robson and Safechuck, who danced on tour and starred in advertisements with Jackson, allege they were sexually abused at Neverland ranch, where they often shared a room with the pop singer.
As Inkoo Kang writes for Slate, Chappelle “seems more interested in seeking the chapter of like-minded patrons than anything else…the rest feels like the comedian shoring up his reputation as an audacious truth-teller. But you can’t help wondering: If the jokes were so funny on their own, would Chappelle have to spend so much time justifying his right to tell them?”
On social media, reactions to Chappelle’s comments about Robson and Safechuck were mixed. Some users defended Chappelle’s comedy and called critics overly-sensitive, while other users said the act of shaming abuse victims has no place in comedy.
I just unfollowed my favorite comedian; a fierce Queen I adore—for posting up all over her Instagram with Dave Chapelle. My heart breaks every time a black woman breathes life into a transphobic/homophobic man. You’re not “doing it for the culture,” you’re destroying it, sis…??♀️
— Ashlee Marie Preston (@AshleeMPreston) February 16, 2019
He’s hilarious but obviously he’s doing this for clicks. We all know Jackson molested children and was a monster.
— Eddie (@eddieb2) August 26, 2019
He is defending a vindicated man btw they tried time and time again to bury him, he went through raids, a humiliating strip-search and photo-shoot, trial, everything, there never was any proof! STAY MAD
— Erie?️??️ (@EriettiF) August 26, 2019
Too bad Dave Chappelle can’t get laughs (or attention) any other way than to blame victims. Pathetic.
— Annik Stahl (@curledANDqueued) August 26, 2019
Since Chappelle’s special aired, the hashtag “IDontBelieveTheseMFs” has also been trending on Twitter, with users proclaiming Michael Jackson’s innocence.
“Mr. Chappele should look to fellow comedian Hannibal Buress, who instead used his platform as a mode of social change, by addressing the injustice of Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual abuse of many women head-on when no other comedian would, as an example of positive work done from a place of intestinal fortitude,” said Finaldi.