Macaulay Culkin's interview and what it reveals about the Michael Jackson case
Updated: Feb 13
It’s the moment that many have been waiting for.
Child movie star Macaulay Culkin, the most famous of all young Michael Jackson friends, has spoken.
A year on from the release of the Leaving Neverland film, the tabloids remain eager for another bombshell.
But in a new interview with Esquire, Culkin delivered what he dubbed “the truth” - nothing happened, neither to him or any other boys he saw in Jackson's company.
Although doubt still lingered in some quarters, Jackson’s reputation had recovered somewhat in the years after he was acquitted of child molestation by a court in 2005.
But then, a decade after his death, came Leaving Neverland. The film is based on the stories of two men who claimed they were abused by Jackson as children in the late 1980s to early 90s - the same period during which Culkin was also regularly at Jackson's side. Yet the Home Alone star remained unharmed.
The film’s director, Dan Reed, exploited a legal loophole which states the dead cannot be defamed, and therefore was able to make the decision not to present key information to viewers about the accusers’ past and their behaviour.
Even though Jackson, unable to defend himself, was essentially being tried in the court of public opinion, viewers were only getting the prosecution side. They weren't even told that both accusers were trying to revive a lawsuit against Jackson’s Estate.
The film was embraced by the mainstream media across the world, and the allegations within essentially reported as fact. With the MeToo movement at its height, few dared to offer any sort of challenge.
Reed claimed that over a period of 18 months, he "tried to poke holes" in the accusers' accounts. Given how easy it was for a handful of journalists and Jackson fans to highlight flaws, Reed must have chosen to ignore his findings. Or he didn't do any research at all, and just decided to go with what he was being told.
Either way, it was a failure in journalism.
When several scenarios in the film were proven, with evidence, to be untrue, Reed desperately defended his film on social media.
He claimed more victims would speak out as a result of his film, but none have been forthcoming. Brett Barnes, who accompanied Jackson on a world tour as a child, immediately rushed to his defence.
Having had the best part of a year to stew over Leaving Neverland and the subsequent fallout, Macaulay Culkin has now broken his silence on the issue.
And Culkin admitted he would have “no reason” to cover for Jackson at this stage in his life.
“The guy has passed on,” Culkin said. “At this flash point in time, I’d have no reason to hold anything back.”
The emergence of the MeToo movement, Culkin acknowledged, also makes it “a good time to speak up”.
“If I had something to speak up about, I would totally do it," he added. "But no, I never saw anything; he never did anything.”
So for the umpteenth time, Culkin was asked the question. And the answer remains the same.
Those assured of Jackson’s guilt claim Culkin was simply 'too famous' to be a target. That’s why he wasn’t abused, they say. But they’re mistaken. Culkin says he recognises what child abuse is, having himself been a victim at the hands of his physically violent father. And he wasn't afraid to talk about it.
That domestic ordeal, plus the immense pressure of childhood stardom, made Culkin a very vulnerable young boy, regardless of his celebrity status.
And Jackson and Culkin’s friendship wasn’t a short-lived one. The two met in 1990, when Culkin was ten, and spent the best part of two years by each other’s side.
“Seriously, he was like my best friend for a good long stretch,” Culkin once said. “It was a legitimate friendship.”
There were sleepovers aplenty at Neverland with other youngsters present, trips to Disneyland and even a holiday in Bermuda, where the two shared a hotel room.
If Jackson’s only motive for hanging out with young boys was to abuse them, then he wasted an awful lot of time on Macaulay Culkin.
Mike Smallcombe is a journalist and author based in Cornwall. Follow him on Twitter.