Michael Jackson's death anniversary elicits mixed reactions: 'At the time, he was one of the greats to me'

AOL.com editors

The ten-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death is proving more contemplative than complimentary.

One decade after the iconic artist died at age 50, his legacy is complicated at best, marred at worst. Although allegations of sexually abusing children first publicly emerged in 1993, Jackson remained widely beloved, with the majority of his devoted fans proclaiming his innocence. Indeed, when some of the claims made their way to court, Jackson was found not guilty on all counts.

It was "Leaving Neverland," a documentary broadcast by HBO earlier this year, that revitalized the conversation about Jackson and his relationships with children. Two now-grown men recalled their experiences as Jackson's friends, confidants — and unwitting sexual partners. Jackson was in his 30s when he allegedly engaged with the children in sexual acts, including oral sex and intercourse, and facilitated a faux wedding with one of the boys. Jackson's estate has firmly denied the men's harrowing claims.

As #10YearsWithoutMichaelJackson began trending on Twitter June 25, tweets honoring and applauding Jackson are numerous. His longtime drummer, Jonathan "Sugarfoot" Moffett, emotionally recalled hugging Jackson hours before his passing, while Florida reporter Nicole Rodriguez tweeted that Jackson is "the reason I believed in magic and the goodness of humanity." 

But many people are proceeding with more trepidation or, in many cases, full-on disgust.

"Not gonna lie, I cried when Michael Jackson died. At the time, he was one of the greats to me," one user wrote. "But given what’s come to light recently — the abuse and gaslighting that he put those children through — it makes a little sick to see this surge of support for him."


In response to one post mourning "one of the greatest entertainers/human beings on this earth," one user wrote, "He molested children. What is wrong with you?"


Some reactions were blunt: "Michael Jackson raped children," a Florida woman wrote. "May he forever be remembered as the monster he was."

Others took the #10YearsWithout prompt literally: "Is it really 10 years since Michael Jackson stopped being a threat to children? Blimey," one mused.

A statement from the Jackson estate on the 10-year anniversary makes no reference to the sexual abuse headlines that dominated much of his adult life, nor the ones that re-surfaced this year. Rather, it called Jackson "more important than ever," emphasizing his profound influence on the music industry.