Legendary singer and actress Barbra Streisand is under fire for saying that two men who were allegedly molested as children by Michael Jackson had been "thrilled to be there".
In a wide-ranging interview with the Times of London published online Friday, Streisand was asked about "Leaving Neverland," the explosive HBO documentary where choreographer Wade Robson, 41, and former child actor James Safechuck, 36, allege the singer gave them alcohol, showed them pornography, and even purchased a wedding ring for Safechuck when they were young boys. The documentary, which Jackson's estate has condemned, renewed public outrage toward the pop singer, who was acquitted in 2005 of all charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of a 13-year old boy.
Streisand told the Times she "absolutely" believed Robson and Safechuck.
"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 says of her complicated feelings on the situation. "Why would Michael need these little children dressed like him and in the shoes and the dancing and the hats?"
But her assessment of the long-term impact on both men, and Jackson's behaviour, has drawn considerable ire from the public.
"His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has," she said of Jackson.
"You can say 'molested', but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there," she said of Robson and Safechuck. "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them."
The Times interviewer writes that he brought up Jackson because both he and Streisand achieved a similar level of fame. However, Streisand says she met Jackson a couple of times and turned down an opportunity to record a duet with him.
Representatives for Streisand could not immediately be reached for comment.
After the interview was published, Streisand's name was trending on Twitter as users expressed surprise and outrage, including the director of "Leaving Neverland," Dan Reed.
Jackson maintains an ardent base of fans and supporters who took to social media to defend the late pop star against these latest accusations after the two-part film aired.
And this is not the first time that the world has had to reckon with allegations against Jackson, who had faced similar allegations since the 1990s.
Lawyers for Jackson's estate called the documentary "a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself."