This episode focuses on Wade Robson's narrative of abuse as presented in his lawsuit. Robson's account includes how he met Jackson in Australia, and moved to the states 4 years later to advance his career. The contradictions, falsehoods, and improbable scenarios of his narrative are highlighted.
Joy Robson says in her deposition that she had to repeatedly call Jackson to get Wade into his music videos, contradicting the claim that Jackson really wanted Wade in those videos to be close to him for abuse. She also confirms in this deposition that the whole family, including Wade, went on the trip to the Grand Canyon.
Jackson Estate lawyer documents how Robson never worked on commercials or photo shoots with Jackson's companies like Wade claims.
Motion by the Jackson Estate, which clarified that Target and Pepsi were the sponsoring agents for the Dance Contests, as Wade and his mother testified to previously. Wade changes his story in his lawsuit claiming they were sponsored by Jackson's companies, which helps his claim that the companies were involved in his alleged abuse.
This includes her testimony that during the Robsons' first night at Neverland, she slept upstairs in Jackson's suite because she didn't want to infringe on his space by having them both there. She says the second night she joined her brother and Jackson downstairs, and felt just as welcome as her brother. This testimony contradicts Wade's lawsuit claim that his sister was with them the first night, then expressed concern and slept upstairs the second night.
This claim is contradicted by repeated testimony from his mother and himself that he rarely saw Jackson once they moved to the states.
This account of conflicted feelings at this young age counters his other claims that he never thought Jackson could do any wrong, and he was always happy and unaffected by the abuse, which is how he explains why his mom or others never detected anything.
“I realized very early on that if we were going to make it here, it was going to be up to me. I couldn’t really rely on Michael — Michael kind of lived in a bubble and had a different reality to ours. And so I was the one who had to find agents.” Joy Robson says she was the one who did everything for Wade's career, and Jackson just wasn't around very much. This contradicts Wade's lawsuit claim that he owed everything to Jackson, and that Jackson dominated his life.
Robson claims to have been "brainwashed" by Jackson, but because Robson actually saw Jackson very infrequently, this goes against the brainwashing argument. True brainwashing requires isolation of the victim and the perpetrator has complete control over him. There's an absolute dependence. Robson's life was very controlled by his mother, who said repeatedly that Jackson wasn't around and they had to do everything to get Robson's career off the ground.
This comes from his 2016 deposition (p.105).
“My mother, father, sister, grandmother and grandfather were now gone. It was just Michael, I, and Neverland. 2700 acres of impenetrable Michael Jackson country, governed by one man only, Michael Jackson. Now that Michael and I were all alone, the rest of the family in an RV in the Grand Canyon, the nights became a very different experience. No longer your 'average' kids sleepover."
To me his easygoing, calm demeanor is notable considering the terror he claims to have been feeling because of Jackson's alleged threats. He is around age 11.
“When the Chandlers accepted a settlement from Jackson, that just convinced me that it was all about money, because I would never have been able to let it go for money if I thought he had touched you. I remember saying at the time that no amount of money would make that OK for me. I would not have stopped until he was behind bars. I still feel that way.”
Joy recounted this story in Jermaine Jackson's book, You are Not Alone.
Ross was working for Jackson's defense attorney Tom Mesereau during the 2005 trial. In this interview, Ross explains that subpoenas were sent automatically to all witnesses, and one was even served to himself, because it was related to the gag order issued by Judge Melville. Ross states it was in no way served uniquely to Robson to force him to testify. Ross says he not only still has that subpoena in his files, but he also still has Wade’s signature acknowledging his willingness to testify. This contradicts Robson's claim that he was forced by subpoena to testify.
Robson’s lawyer Vince Finaldi echoes Robson’s claim about being forced to testify in a 2016 radio interview: “ I know all about what his trial team did in 2005 and how they interacted with Wade and his family and how they coached his testimony.”
(around 49:30 for this quote)
Robson’s lawyer’s radio interview transcripts and commentary:
Mesereau describes how strong Robson was as a witness, contradicting Robson's claim that he was a reluctant witness and needed coaching. Mesereau tells Zeigler it would be a form of insanity to consider putting forward a reluctant witness, and he says Michael Jackson was perfectly agreeable to putting Robson on as their first and strongest witness.
Robson didn’t have to be coached for this interview, in which he gave a strong defense. Robson explains that he had an innocent relationship with Jackson that never involved any sort of abuse. He makes many positive statements about Jackson, who he says just liked the simple joys of hanging out with kids. When asked directly about abuse, Robson says,
"I never had that experience and I hope that it never happened to anybody else,”:
Robson also didn’t have to be coached for this interview. In a confident and easygoing manner, he denies any abuse or wrongdoing and says Jackson is a good guy. Not only does this clip show Robson strongly defending Michael Jackson, but he is doing it in front of an audience and host that are enjoying the Michael Jackson-as-a-molester narrative. Jackson’s accusers like to say how the media and the public couldn’t see beyond Jackson’s celebrity when these accusations came up, but this clip to me is representative of the reality at the time—the media and the public were quick to presume Jackson as guilty and they weren’t idolizing him, but dehumanizing and ridiculing him.
These interviews were before any of the alleged phone calls by Jackson and before Jackson even had his legal team assembled.
In 2008 when Robson was 26, he was asked in an interview on Access Hollywood why he stood up for Jackson in his trial. Robson’s reply: “Because Michael was always a friend to me, and that’s what you do for friends, you tell the truth” Wade was 26 at the time of this interview and had been married for 3 years. His choice of words stood out to me, "that’s what you do for friends, you tell the truth." His words about "telling the truth" are a perfect fit if Jackson is innocent, but it seems to me an odd choice if Jackson is guilty. Wade is saying now that he was lying in his testimony when he said over and over again that Jackson never touched him. If Wade was abused, he could have just said in that interview that he stood up for Michael because he was a friend, or he could say because he didn’t want to see Michael get hurt or lose his kids. The fact that he chose the words, "that’s what you do for friends, you tell the truth,"strikes me as highly unlikely if abuse really occurred, especially considering his claims that he was forced testify at that trial. This comment was made 3 years after the trial.
Joy Robson in the Australian paper “The Age” describing her family’s reaction when Jackson’s not guilty verdicts were announced after his trial in 2005:
"We just feel so vindicated right across the board--we were crying and screaming and crying and screaming.'' This doesn’t sound like the Robsons needed coaching, as Wade’s lawyer implies in the radio show.
Here's Robson's words about Jackson in the Opus: "He was one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind." Also, "I just can't bear the thought of deleting his messages." These words don't match the fear and resistance to Jackson Robson alleges he felt, especially when he says Jackson would call intermittently and threaten him that their lives would be over if anyone found out. The words also don't match Robson's claims that he had to be forced by subpoena to testify at Jackson's trial, or Robson's lawyers saying Wade had to be coached by Jackson's lawyers. "Pure goodness" seems like a particularly unlikely term to use for Jackson if these claims by Robson and his lawyers are true.
As we learn from exhibits shown at his 2016 deposition, on June 26, 2009, the day after Jackson died, Wade wrote an e-mail to Jeff Thacker, Co-Executive Producer of So You Think You Can Dance. In this email he wrote the following: "I wanted to write you now so if you guys are thinking of doing any dance tribute to MJ on the show, I would like it to be me who does it." (pp. 175-176)
In an e-mail dated October 8, 2009 Wade asks James Phares, Kenny Ortega's personal
assistant, "I was wondering if there was anyway for my Mom and Grandma to also come
to the MJ premier?" (page 186) This referred to the premier of "This Is It," a documentary featuring Jackson's final rehearsals before he died. Wade was already going to attend, but he wanted his family members to get an invitation too.
Shortly after starting therapy in 2011, court evidence shows that Wade sent the director of the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show an email, asking for a chance to direct and choreograph the show. In these email exchanges he notes how badly he wants this opportunity. He is told he needs to meet first with the executor of Jackson’s estate, John Branca, so Wade has email exchanges with Branca and meets with him in person in Branca’s office. Wade Robson does not get the position. This rejection by Michael Jackson’s Estate has relevant timing, because it comes before his second breakdown and disclosure of abuse.
John Branca deposition
This deposition includes Branca's testimony about Robson seeking but not getting the director job for the Cirque show.
In 2011 Robson quits his job directing his first film, because of the stress, and he says on his blog that he felt like a failure. This led to his first breakdown in April 2011. He wrote in his blog about feeling purposeless after quitting his first directing job and that he had a feeling of shame that he was a complete failure. His mother and brother will later testify that Wade was having financial strains at this time.
This post is from Robson’s blog “Wade’s Window," November 24, 2017
Dance Spirit Magazine's Facebook page was advertising Wade Robson's dance video "Flight," during the time period he claimed in his lawsuit he was unable to work in entertainment in any capacity. (November 28, 2015)
Wade Robson, on his Wade Robson Creations Facebook page, advertised a dance session with him on Hawaii in June 2015. This is during the time period he claimed in his lawsuit he was unable to work in entertainment in any capacity. See Page 30
(Robson removed this advertisement from his own facebook page, but you can see screenshots of this page on the The MIchael Jackson Allegations post listing all of Robson's work.)
Wade Robson, on his Wade Robson Creations Facebook page, advertised a teaser trailer that he created for the Adaptations Dance Theater, during a time he says in his lawsuit that he couldn't work in entertainment. See Page 31.
(Robson longer allows access to these posts, but you can see the screenshots on The Michael Allegations website.)
Wade Robson advertised "Life in Color" on his Facebook Wade Robson Creations page, May 21, 2016, during the time he said he was unable to work in entertainment. (Page 31)
Below are links to work Robson was doing in the time period (2016) he legally claimed he was unable to work in any capacity in the entertainment business:
Joy Robson said that she made sure Wade and Chantal were always working as children.
“Wade and Chantal have always been busy and I think boredom breeds trouble. My kids worked every weekend, every school vacation, their birthday parties were backstage, their Christmas parties were backstage. No regrets.”
In a different interview for An Australian newspaper in 1995, Joy Robson again discusses Wade’s work-filled childhood and how Michael Jackson wasn’t around. Here’s excerpts from the article:
“Joy said Wade and daughter Chantal developed an American accent almost immediately. As a result, Wade was doing three or four auditions between 3-7PM each day. While Wade worked hard, attending audition after audition, learning lines, practicing and rehearsing his dance movements, so too did Joy – his greatest supporter. The two are almost inseparable and make career decisions together.”
This line really stood out to me-almost inseparable. Wade was barely around Michael Jackson, but he and his mom were almost inseparable. So who was really the biggest influence on Robson in terms of his work ethic and perspective on life? The article continues:
"While Wade is the on-stage talent, Joy is his mentor, protector and confidante. She handles everything from make-up, wardrobe and music to securing a deal with some of the big names of the American entertainment scene."
Joy states that, “The first 18 months in LA was really tough going. We had taken six suitcases and little money and knew no-one in LA, only Michael who spent much of the time away.”
According to Jackson’s Nanny Grace Rwamba, Michael Jackson’s nickname for Joy Robson was “Joe” because he said Joy reminded him of his own father, Joe Jackson, because of her strict practice and work schedule.
The feeling of “not good enough” and not being fulfilled is a theme Wade wrote about frequently in his blog. Here’s an excerpt from a post from Dec 2 2017:
“Year after year, achievement after achievement, I swore my fulfillment and happiness were on the other side of each. But year after year, achievement after achievement, I could not find them. So again and again, I set my sights higher, believing that the achievements were just not large enough yet, and that was why I hadn’t found fulfillment and happiness. But on that quest, I never found them. On that quest, I eroded and eventually crumbled.
The crumbling forced me to question all that I believed to be true. What if there was no achievement or bundle of achievements that could ever make me happy? What then would be the purpose of work? What then would be the purpose of life?”
Working in entertainment increases risk of mental illness
When considering Robson’s breakdowns, it's worth noting that working in the entertainment industry places one at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide, according to centers for disease control data and other studies.
In an an article from January 2020 entitled Hollywood's mental health reckoning, Cornell psychiatrist Gail Saltz describes the pressures of working in the entertainment industry.
"There are particular pressures associated with celebrity, or striving for celebrity. There is a constant concern that one won’t get that next opportunity, and fame is very fleeting. Constant scrutiny, inability to have failures or mistakes be private, vocal judgment by others, feelings of never being enough are all highly stressful, and chronic stress can lead to anxiety or depression.”
Robson in his lawsuit lays the blame for his unhealthy work attitudes on Michael Jackson:
“All I learned from Michael was all I knew to do was get back to work so I figured that’s what I had to do.”
However, Michael Jackson, due to his own experience as a child star, was known for encouraging children to enjoy their childhood and make time for play. In her own 2016 deposition, Joy Robson said Michael Jackson used to call her and beg her to not make Wade work all the time, to let him have his childhood.
Robson’s therapist writes how everyone he works with wants to get out of the business, they’re at the top of their game, but miserable.
Wade & Joy teaming up after Jackson's death
Michael Jackson’s niece and nephew Brandi and Taj Jackson have recounted in interviews that after their uncle’s death they each separately got calls from both Wade and his mother, who they say were angling to get time with Jackson’s kids, with Joy Robson saying she thought she should have custody of Jackson’s kids. It appeared to Brandi and Taj that they were trying to make a connection with the Jackson family after Michael’s death for opportunistic reasons, and they also turned Wade and his mom down.
Thanks to the following sites for their collection and analysis of the court documents in the Wade Robson case over many years, which helped guide the research for this episode: