Madonna opened the MTV Video Music Awards 2009 in New York with a personal tribute to Michael Jackson, accusing herself and the world of “abandoning him”.
The Queen of Pop described her early friendship with Jackson and said she regretted the fact she had lost touch with the star over time.
Speaking to the audience, Madonna said: “For one reason or another we fell out of touch, then the witch hunt began and it seemed like one story after another came out about Michael.
“I felt his pain; I know what it’s like to walk down the street and feel like the whole world is turned against you.
“I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and not able to defend yourself because the roar of the witch hunt is so loud you’re convinced your voice can never be heard except I had a childhood and was allowed to make mistakes and find my own way in the world without being in the spotlight.”
She spoke of her emotions when she heard that Jackson had died.
She said: “When I first heard that Michael had died I was in London, days away from the opening of my tour. Michael was supposed to perform in the same venue as me a week later. All I could think about in that moment was I had abandoned him, that we had abandoned him, that we had allowed this magnificent creature who once set the world on fire to somehow slip through the cracks.
“While he was trying to build a family and rebuild his career, we were all busy passing judgment, most of us had turned our backs on him. There will never be anyone like him ever again, he was a king.”
The sombre note to the award ceremony was followed by a musical tribute to the late star.
A montage of his music videos, including 'Thriller' and 'Bad', were played on the big screen, while performers dressed like Jackson danced in his signature style on the stage in front.
They were joined by Jackson’s sister Janet who came out to perform her part of the song 'Scream', which she had released as a duet with Michael in 1995.
Host Russell Brand played it safe, with his own tribute to Jackson.
He said: “Tonight is about great videos but it is also about the great Michael Jackson. What a phenomenal tribute that was with Janet, in celebration of a true genius who was all about love and self-expression and what makes us human.. Michael stayed magical and beautiful to the end, let’s honour Michael Jackson tonight by loving one another in his memory.”
Brand also referred to the controversy he cause while hosting the awards last year, referring to the then-President George W Bush as a “retard and cowboy fella” and making fun of the Jonas’ brothers vow of celibacy.
Brand told the audience: “I don’t want to be accused of bad taste because last year I offended George Bush by saying Barack Obama should be President, and I did offend the Jonas Brothers a bit by joking about their rings.
“Well, the Jonas Brothers have forgiven me – they have to, they’re Christians - and Barack Obama is now President of the United States so, in a way, it seems like I can say whatever I want and sort of get away with it.”
He then propositioned singer Lady GaGa, who was sitting in the audience at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and declared those who suspect her to be a man were “sexist”.
Brand did take one pop at the US, however, voicing his support for Mr Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms.
Talking about the difference between the UK and the USA he said: “Instead of truck, we say lorry, instead of elevator we say lift, and instead of letting people die in the street we have free healthcare.”