COMEDY star Paul Merton claims nobody in showbusiness believed Jimmy Savile was guilty of child abuse - because he was so well known.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe favourite said Savile was merely regarded in the industry as “a strange guy”.
Nobody in the [Have I Got News For You] studio believed him to be a paedophile. I didn’t. My thinking, which I think would have been a lot of people’s thinking, was: ‘well, how can he be?’Paul Merton
He admitted he had heard “stories” about Savile, but said he had dismissed them because there was no apparent proof or evidence of any wrongdoing.
During an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Merton said Savile was “the most recognisable man in Britain” when the pair appeared together on the panel show Have I Got News For You.
Merton said no-one involved in the show was convinced that Savile was a paedophile, but admitted he did not understand why he had been asked to appear on the programme.
It is now known that Savile sexually abused hundreds of children and women at the height of his fame.
Since the death of the former Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It presenter in October 2011, a string of official inquiries have been launched into his offending and the failure to prosecute the star.
Merton was asked whether he thought it was odd that Savile had appeared on an episode of Have I Got News For You in 1999.
He replied: “Often people appear on the show and you don’t really know why they have come on. I don’t know why he came on.
“Now, of course, back in those days, nobody in the studio believed him to be a paedophile. I didn’t. My thinking, which I think would have been a lot of people’s thinking, was: ‘well, how can he be?’
“He was the most recognisable man in Britain at the time. How can he possibly be doing this stuff? I didn’t know that victims weren’t going to believed, I didn’t known that police forces were doing what they were doing, or that he was a friend of (Margaret) Thatcher.
“He was just a strange guy. He came across as a strange guy...but this other stuff - no. People say all kinds of things, but that is not proof or evidence.
“My feeling at the time was that he was a strange guy, but I didn’t believe the stories that I had heard.”