The new HBO documentary Leaving Neverland offers harrowing testimonies about the sexual abuse Michael Jackson allegedly inflicted on children. It puts the spotlight on Wade Robson and James Safechuck — two men who accuse the pop star of grooming and abusing them as children — as they paint an explicit picture of their experiences with him. Public reaction to the documentary was predictably mixed — some people found it heartwrenching, while others still believe in Jackson's innocence. In an interview with British newspaper The Times, it was revealed Barbra Streisand's stance is somewhat nebulous. While she's convinced Robson and Safechuck are telling the truth, she also can't help but express sympathy for Jackson.
"His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has," she said. "You can say 'molested', but those children, as you heard say [the grown-up Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them."
Essentially, what she said is that being sexually abused as a child can't be so bad if you grow up to have a family of your own — but anyone who's managed to watch the whole documentary can attest to the trauma Robson and Safechuck experienced. It seems clear their past has affected their relationships, especially their relationships with close family and friends. Sure, what happened didn't kill them and they were able to enjoy the luxuries Jackson's celebrity afforded — but the abuse is excusable, and no one should try to excuse it in any capacity.
Streisand went on to say she "feels bad" for Jackson and the children, and that the only people to blame are the parents. Not once during the interview did she imply that Jackson — the alleged perpetrator — could be guilty of the allegations.
“It’s a combination of feelings. I feel bad for the children. I feel bad for him. I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him," she continued. "Why would Michael need these little children dressed like him and in the shows and the dancing and the hats?"
Unsurprisingly, reactions to Streisand’s statements were met with vitriol. Even Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed couldn't help but express frustration over her remarks.
Eventually, Streisand issued a statement to clarify her comments.
"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. The stories these two young men shared were painful to hear, and I feel nothing but sympathy for them," the statement read. "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 extended her apology on Twitter, where she explained that the printed statements don't mirror her true feelings about the issue. She said she's "profoundly sorry" for the pain she inflicted upon the accusers.
"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,” she said. "I didn’t mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way. I feel deep remorse and hope James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth."