Barbra Streisand under fire for Michael Jackson remarks

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (Craig Sjodin via Getty Images) BARBRA STREISAND

NEW YORK — Barbra Streisand elaborated Saturday on her highly criticized remarks about Michael Jackson, saying that she feels “nothing but sympathy” for the men accusing the late star of sexually abusing them.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press by a representative, Streisand said: “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 superstar of music, stage and screen made her statement after coming under withering criticism on social media for telling a British newspaper that two men who say they were abused as children by Jackson were “thrilled to be there” and that the alleged abuse “didn’t kill them.”

Deep into a wide-ranging interview with the Times of London, Streisand was quoted as saying she “absolutely” believed the accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who make their allegations in the recent HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland.”

But she also raised eyebrows by saying Jackson’s “sexual needs were his sexual needs.”

In her emailed statement Saturday, Streisand said: “The stories these two young men shared were painful to hear, and I feel nothing but sympathy for them.”

She added a note of implicit criticism of the boys’ parents: “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.”

Jackson’s estate has condemned the HBO documentary. Jackson, who died in 2009, was found not guilty in 2005 of charges he molested a 13-year-old boy.

In the Times of London interview, which covered a range of issues, Streisand was asked about the documentary, which she called “too painful.”

She said that Jackson, when she met him, was “very sweet, very childlike.” Asked how she reconciled that man with the one portrayed in the documentary, she replied: “His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Among those firing back on social media was the director of “Leaving Neverland,” Dan Reed, who wrote of that last quote: “Did you really say that?!”

Asked by the Times whether she was angry at Jackson, Streisand said: “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.”

Also attracting attention Saturday for remarks about Jackson was another star, Diana Ross.

“This is what’s on my heart this morning,” Ross wrote on Twitter. “I believe and trust that Michael Jackson was and is A magnificent incredible force to me and to many others.”

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