As Michael Jackson continues to battle child molestation charges, the pop star's former manager — who was abruptly fired several years ago — has come to his defense.
"I don't think he's guilty,"said Frank Dileo, Jackson's former manager, on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I think he's eccentric at times. But all very creative people are eccentric," he added.
Jackson, who was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of child molestation, has publicly denied the charges against him.
Dileo, who managed Jackson during the pop star's career peak — spanning the record-setting albums Thriller and Bad — said Jackson doesn't understand why others might find his statements and his behavior strange, because he sees things differently than most people.
The ex-manager added that, looking back, he should have talked more candidly with the pop star about how people might perceive his behavior.
"I should have taken him and sat him down and said, 'Listen, this really looks improper to other people. I know you are not doing anything. You know you are not doing anything. But there's other people that think this is not right,' " Dileo said.
Dileo said he and Jackson were once inseparable, claiming they spent only 60 days apart in the five years he managed the star. And the former manager said he never witnessed anything that would indicate Jackson could be in trouble during those years.
He also noted he has been in Jackson's so-called "secret room" at the pop star's Neverland ranch and that there was nothing in the room to lure children in.
"I think it was more like a safe room and I never saw anything that looked like it was trying to attract kids in there or anything," Dileo explained.
Reports about the room, which began to surface after the charges were filed against Jackson, have said that the room is hidden behind a closet in Jackson's bedroom suite.
A 10-year-old videotape of the room revealed dolls and a bed decorated with Peter Pan pillows that say Neverland. An attorney of Jackson's fired Dileo in 1988. Dileo said the reason for his termination was never really explained, but the former manger believes the move was politically motivated. He added that he felt Jackson did not make the decision to let him go, but also that they have not been in touch since he left his post.
While Dileo has not always come to Jackson's defense — the former manager publicly condemned Jackson for calling Sony Records' Tommy Mottola a racist in 2002 — he said he still considers Jackson a friend.