Louis Theroux has said he was driven to defend Michael Jackson’s sexual abuse accusers because of his own relationship with Jimmy Savile.
Theroux told the Edinburgh TV Festival that while he never considered Savile a friend the pair were “friendly” with one another, before the entertainer’s death in 2011.
He said this made him feel obliged to “stick his head above the parapet” and “take a stand” to defend alleged victims of sexual abuse.
The documentary-maker spent three months with Savile, years before the TV figure was revealed as a prolific sex offender, and famously quizzed him on-camera about allegations of abuse.
In March this year Theroux accused Jackson fans, who deny he was a paedophile despite claims made in the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, of being “wilfully blind”.
The BBC regular, 49, also said on Twitter that those “campaigning against” the HBO and Channel 4 film were “actively colluding in the silencing of victims”.
He told the conference: “I think that was part of it. In a strange sense I suppose I felt I had a little bit of a responsibility.
“Having had – without seeking it out – an education in how grooming works and how abuse often takes place.
“One of the most upsetting things for me is when you go through Twitter and you see the abuse directed at Dan Reed – the director of Leaving Neverland – and the strange obtuseness of how many people – I assume through ignorance and in a sort of way self-grooming – their inability to see that the process of recognising yourself as a victim takes time.”
Speaking to author and TV presenter Dawn O’Porter, Theroux added: “People say, ‘You’re inconsistent’ or ‘Wade Robson wanted to film a Michael Jackson tribute show two years before he came out and said he’d been abused – that doesn’t make any sense’.
“If you actually understood how mixed up we are as people and how our circuits get scrambled, that makes complete sense.
“Without going off too much talking about Leaving Neverland, one of the extraordinary things about it was the way we saw that grooming process, and the fact that one of the guys, James Safeuchuck, appeared to still be in love with Michael Jackson.
“I generally resist doing tweets that I know will be controversial or divisive. But I thought on this one I’m going to stick my head above the parapet and take a stand.”
Reed spoke on Wednesday at the festival.
During his appearance pro-Jackson protesters parked a vehicle carrying a billboard with the words “Facts don’t lie. People do” and an image of Jackson’s face outside the festival venue.
The Jackson family estate has repeatedly denied all claims of sexual abuse.