Years before Jimmy Savile was outed as a prolific child sex offender, Louis Theroux quizzed him on-camera about allegations of abuse.

The documentary-maker spent three months with Savile for documentary When Louis Met Jimmy, which aired 19 years ago.

In the now-famous clip, Theroux prompted the disgraced DJ and children’s entertainer to deny he was a paedophile. 

While the extent of Savile’s heinous past would not be revealed until after his death, rumours followed the former children’s host in the latter years of his life.

“It’s easier for me, as a single man, to say ‘I don’t like children’, because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt,” Savile told Theroux in 2000. 

When pressed by Theroux, he added: “How do they know whether I am not? How does anybody know whether I am? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I’m not. That’s my policy and it’s worked a dream.”

It is a now chilling exchange, which still plays on Theroux’s mind almost two decades later.

“The hallmark of his offending was he was weirdly brazen in his ability to address it and take the position that is completely bizarre,” he explained.

“He had an ability not to be nobbled by it. When he was confronted about his offending, people did come to confront him and he had the ability to brazen it out.”

The filmmaker was “not sure” of his guilt as a sexual predator when making his documentary in 2001.

“I think about it a lot. I have got a book coming out later this year and about seven chapters are about Jimmy Savile, so it would be a bit weird not to talk about it,” he said. 

“In terms of my professional career I would say it is the strangest and most upsetting event to have been in any way involved in.”

He added: “I quite liked him. I have to pick my words carefully, people say ‘you were his friend’. And I would never call myself his friend in a straight forward way. We were friendly, I had friendly feelings towards him.”

His experience with Savile was what drove Theroux to defend Michael Jackson’s sexual abuse accusers. 

Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival yesterday, he said that his experience with the sordid children’s entertainer made him feel obliged to “stick his head above the parapet” and “take a stand” to defend alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Earlier 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”.

“I think that was part of it,” he told the conference. “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.”
He also spoke about the online abuse which has been levied at Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed.

He said: “One of the most upsetting things for me is when you go through Twitter and you see the abuse directed at [Reed] 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.

Mr 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.

Theroux also disputed claims made by comedian Ruby Wax that he stole her documentary style in the 90s for his TV documentary series Weird Weekends. 

“I was in America throughout the 90s at the time when Ruby Wax was on TV a lot. I hadn’t seen many of them until later on. It is mistaken, the idea that I took ideas, at or least very much, from her.”

He added: “I also feel that people resenting you is a compliment. I feel bad that she is upset, I can completely relate to the sense of being brought face-to-face with your TV shelf life, and the sense of people threatened by someone a bit younger than you … and a man. At the same time a little part of me is flattered that she would be so annoyed.”