The world’s largest children’s museum is removing three Michael Jackson artifacts from display, but it is keeping photos of the King of Pop in an exhibit honoring a young AIDS patient.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis says it is removing Jackson’s fedora and white gloves, which it obtained in an auction, from its American Pop exhibit, and it’s also pulling a signed poster from The Power of Children exhibit, spokeswoman Leslie Olsen said in a statement.
We’ll never listen to Michael Jackson’s music the same
“We are very sensitive to our audience,” she said. “In an excess of caution, and in response to the controversy over the HBO film called ‘Leaving Neverland,’ which directly involved allegations of abuse against children, we removed those objects while we carefully consider the situation more fully.”
It was not immediately clear if the artifacts could be put back on display after museum officials review the situation.
The Ryan White exhibit
The museum will keep photos of Jackson that are part of its re-creation of Ryan White’s bedroom. The Kokomo, Indiana, boy became a cause celebre in the 1980s after contracting HIV through a blood treatment. At a time when AIDS was poorly understood and people feared White could spread the disease to other children, residents of his Howard County community fought against his return to school.
Op-ed: Yes, I will keep listening to Michael Jackson
Jackson befriended White and spent time with the boy and his family. Alyssa Milano, then the young star on the hit TV show, “Who’s The Boss?” appeared with White on “The Phil Donahue Show,” where she gave White a kiss to demonstrate that people couldn’t contract AIDS from casual contact with a victim.
White died in 1990, just before his high school graduation. More than 1,500 people, including Jackson and first lady Barbara Bush, attended his funeral, while Donahue and Elton John were among the teen’s pallbearers. Congress months later passed the Ryan White CARE Act to help impoverished victims of HIV/AIDS, and Jackson recorded “Gone Too Soon” in White’s honor and released the song on World AIDS Day in 1993.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis re-created White’s bedroom in 2007 for The Power of Children exhibit. His mother, Jeanne, helped put it together. Among White’s toys, doodles, notes from well-wishers and other belongings – including the fuzzy bear slippers he wore to keep his feet warm – are signed pictures and posters from John, Jackson and Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, according to a 2015 article written by the exhibit’s curator.
In her statement, Olsen explained that the Jackson items in the White exhibit will remain on display because the singer was such an important part of White’s life. White fondly recalled his visits with Jackson in the posthumously published 1992 book, “My Own Story.”
“Ryan’s family found Michael Jackson’s kindness to them to be an important part of Ryan’s story and the pictures of Michael displayed in that exhibit will always be an integral part of the Ryan White story,” Olsen’s statement said.
Documentary spurs backlash
The HBO documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” chronicles allegations by James Safechuck and Wade Robson who say Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. HBO is owned by CNN’s parent company.
The documentary has sparked a backlash and calls for boycotts, and several organizations have taken actions to avoid the perception that they’re honoring Jackson: Radio stations in New Zealand and Canada have dropped his music from their programming; the National Football Museum in Manchester, England, took down its Jackson statue; the London transport authority decided to remove #MJInnocent advertisements from its buses; and “The Simpsons” pulled reruns of an episode featuring Jackson’s voice.
The “Thriller” singer, who died in 2009, was accused in 1993 of sexually molesting a boy and charged with seven counts of child molestation in allegations related to another boy in 2003. Jackson settled out of court with the 1993 accuser and was acquitted in the 2003 case.
He maintained his innocence until his death and his family has continued to do so, calling the documentary a “public lynching” and Jackson’s accusers “admitted liars.” When Jackson was alive, his family points out, both Safechuck and Robson gave sworn statements saying the pop star not molest them.
Founded in 1925, the 472,900-square-foot Indianapolis museum sits on 29 acres and is the largest of its kind. It includes exhibits educating visitors on science, history, world culture, art and dinosaurs, among other topics.
CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian and Lisa Respers France contributed to this report.