How the women around Michael Jackson have changed their minds about the singer’s innocence

Helen Chandler-Wilde
Michael Jackson with his mother Katherine - Getty Images North America

Michael Jackson has been accused of sexually abusing children on several occasions, both before and after his death. Many women stood by his side, maintaining that the allegations were false, with some even going on the stand. Stars including Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor stood by his side, and were named as witnesses for the defence in the 2005 trial of the singer.

However, over the years some have changed their minds about the truth of the accusations. Others have maintained he is innocent, not believing claims made in new documentary Leaving Neverland.

Oprah Winfrey

US television superstar Oprah Winfrey scored the first interview with Jackson for 14 years in 1993. The conversation was streamed live, drawing 90 million viewers.

The interview took place a few months before the first allegations of child molestation were made against the star. Winfrey said that she found him “very likeable”.

"After this interview, I thought I could be his friend, because I felt that he was really honest”, she told her own magazine Oprah.

However, Winfrey, a survivor of sex abuse herself, changed her mind drastically after accusations were made.

In 2010 she made a special episode of her eponymous talk show, packing the audience with 200 men who claimed they had been victims of sexual abuse when they were children.

She followed up this with another special show this week, after the release of Leaving Neverland. This time she invited 100 people who said they were abused.  

“Here’s the reason why I’m here: In 25 years of The Oprah Show, I taped 217 episodes on sexual abuse. I tried and tried and tried to get the message across to people that sexual abuse was not just abuse, it was also sexual seduction," she said.

Leaving Neverland was aired on OWN, a network that Oprah partly owns.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michael Jackson in 1993, before the first allegations Credit: Jordan Strauss/ Invision

Lisa Marie Presley

Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis, in 1994, after Evan Chandler claimed Jackson sexually abused his 13-year-old son. Presley and Jackson divorced in 1996.

She has always denied seeing Jackson commit any crimes, saying in an interview with Oprah in 2010: “I was never in that room. I can tell you I never saw anything like that.” She said that Jackson was “high as a kite” in the “Living with Michael Jackson” documentary presented by Martin Bashir in 2003, in which Jackson said he slept in a bed with a 13-year-old boy. The Jackson in the programme was not “the Michael I knew” according to Presley.

She has kept quiet about the Leaving Neverland documentary.

Lisa Marie Presley (left) with her mother Priscilla Presley in 2006 Credit:  JEFF MITCHELL/Reuters

Debbie Rowe

Rowe married Jackson in 1996, and is the mother of his children Prince and Paris. Rowe, a dermatology nurse, met Jackson when treating him for vitiligo. After the pair divorced in 1999, Rowe relinquished her parental rights and Jackson got full custody.

However, after Jackson was accused of child sex abuse, Rowe went to court and gained some rights back over the children. After his death, she tried to become their guardian.

She has stayed under the radar since the documentary was released.

Paris Jackson 

Paris was just 11 when her father died in 2009. She has denied accusations against him, saying he was an “incredible dad”.

According to celebrity blog TMZ, she still doesn’t believe the accusations against Jackson, despite the release of the documentary. Apparently the film-makers did not let her see the programme before its public release, and she still has not seen it.

Paris Jackson, who was 11 when her father Michael died Credit:  DANNY MOLOSHOK/REUTERS

Katherine Jackson 

Just like many female members of his family, mother Katherine has always maintained that Jackson was innocent. After the first allegations against him were made in 1993, she said: “I'd like to let the world know that I'm behind my son. I don't believe any of this stuff that's being written about him because I raised him and I know that's just a statement people are making.”

In 2010, after the singer’s death, she reaffirmed her belief in his innocence, telling The Guardian that Jackson had told her: "I'd rather slit my own wrists than hurt a child”.

Talking about the 2005 trial, she said: "All his life he had to go through stuff like this and it was trying on him”.

Michael Jackson with his father Joe and mother Katherine at court in 2005 for the singer's child molestation trial Credit: Getty Images North America

La Toya Jackson

After the 1993 allegations against Jackson, his sister LaToya Jackson said:  “I just think Michael needs help. This has been going on since 1981, and it's not just one child.”

However, in 2011 she backtracked, telling The Daily Beast that: “I never believed for a minute my brother was guilty of anything like that.”

In January she promoted a tribute show to her brother. When asked at a press conference about the allegations in the film she refused to answer.