TV & Radio

Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Strictly, meeting Jimmy Savile and GB News: ‘I’ve never been interested in bust-ups with interviewees’

As a teenager, the Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy was all set on a career as a doctor. His father, whose name is also Krishnan, worked for the NHS as a consultant radiologist – now aged 90, he is still doing the same job – and it was assumed his son would follow suit. Krishnan Jr duly won a place at Oxford at 18 to study medicine. But then, in his gap year, he got a temporary gig presenting the BBC discussion series, Open to Question, in which famous figures were quizzed by an audience of teenagers. His very first guest? Jimmy Savile.

“Oh, he was awful,” Guru-Murthy recalls. “That much was apparent when I met him in make-up and he was dismissive and not interested in engaging with me. Then when the programme started, he reacted badly to it. He thought he was coming on to have a load of kids tell him how wonderful he was and [when they didn’t], you could see the shock on his face.” During the show, which is available online, Savile was challenged on his misogyny and called “a bit of an egotist”. When one young woman asked what, as a practising Catholic, he would do if one of his girlfriends became pregnant, he replied: “Well, I’d say ‘Who was it?’ as I boarded the train for Hong Kong.”

“I mean, he was talking to teenagers, so it was all just ghastly,” reflects Guru-Murthy. Nonetheless, the presenter called Oxford to say he wanted to switch to a politics degree so he could pursue a career in broadcasting. What made him change his mind? “It was just so gripping,” he explains. “That same day, we recorded a show with John Prescott, who was then trying to become deputy leader of the Labour Party. So one guy was at the centre of the news and the other guy was a massive figure in popular culture. I thought, ‘This is absolutely brilliant. I want to do this for the rest of my life.’”

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