Suspended Hook may not return to Newstalk airwaves
IT is looking increasingly likely George Hook will not be returning to the airwaves on Newstalk following the uproar over his controversial comments about rape.
On his High Noon programme on Friday, September 8, the 76-year-old presenter questioned whether a woman involved in a British rape case should share some of the blame for putting herself in danger.
The programme sparked a storm of controversy, with two large companies – Tesco and hotel group Dalata – pulling their adverts from the show over his remarks.
The comments were also criticised by station colleagues Chris Donoghue and Dil Wickremasinghe, who refused to present her show tonight in protest over the incident.
Hook was suspended yesterday while an investigation into the incident takes place. Dr Ciara Kelly stood in for him yesterday.
And it is looking increasingly likely that he will not be returning
‘Once off-air, it’s hard to get back
to the airwaves at Newstalk, with senior station sources tipping Dr Kelly as the favourite to take over should he be sacked.
Dr Kelly – a regular contributor on Mr Hook’s programme – opened the show yesterday by saying ‘Yes, I’m a woman.’
Just after 9am yesterday, Newstalk tweeted that Hook had been suspended from his duties and that a process arising from his comments last week about rape and responsibility was ongoing.
On its website, the radio station said: ‘Newstalk has confirmed that George Hook has been suspended from his duties at the station. The process regarding his comments last week is ongoing.’
Hook has been locked in talks with station bosses all week as an investigation got under way.
His future at the station where he has worked for 15 years looked in doubt, with one source saying: ‘Once you’re taken off air it is very hard to get back on.
‘There has to be a fair process, so it could go on until next week. Dr Ciara Kelly did a remarkable job standing in for Hook and she is the favourite to take over the show, along with Sarah McInerney but she (Ms McInerney) would not be strong enough to carry a show on her own’.
Minutes before Hook’s suspension was announced Taoiseach Leo Varadkar voiced his concern about the comments.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Mr Varadkar said: ‘Nobody who is raped or sexually assaulted is responsible in any way.’
He added that the presenter’s comments were ‘indicative of attitudes that still exist in Irish society that need to change’.
Hook apologised on Saturday and Monday for his comments.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland told the Daily Mail that it has received a total of 32 complaints in relation to the High Noon broadcast on September 8.
However, it is not the policy of the BAI to deal with direct complaints and it re-directed them to Newstalk.
A spokesman said: ‘All parties are invited to make a formal complaint against Newstalk if they are not happy with their response.’
Hotel group Dalata withdrew its advertising on Monday and Tesco Ireland followed suit on Thursday. ‘Our advertising package includes spots during a variety of shows distributed across the station. We confirm that we have restricted the airing of our adverts around this particular show in the short term, although we keep this under review,’ Tesco Ireland said.
Paul Moran, of advertising buyer agency Mediaworks, told the Mail: ‘While the advertising community fully appreciates and supports editorial independence I do support Newstalk in suspending George Hook.
‘We found his comments unacceptable and they caused offence to a substantial amount of people and had implications for society.
‘In that regard we are always conscious on where we place our clients’ advertising in an environment which may be perceived as being offensive, or discriminatory to any group.’
The controversial comments made by Hook have led to broadcasters and journalists within the station taking the unusual role of making public comments.
Yesterday, presenter Seán Moncrieff tweeted: ‘This has been an incredibly difficult week at Newstalk. But I’m immensely proud of the professional and brave staff here.’
On Thursday, Global Village presenter Dil Wickremasinghe released a statement saying that she would not present her Saturday night show on Newstalk this weekend due to the comments.
Hours before Hook’s suspension Ms Wickremasinghe tweeted that she felt ‘deeply unsatisfied with the management of Newstalk’.
At that time, she said: ‘I feel unable to share the airwaves with an individual who has no regard for the duty of care we have to the public.’
Speaking during his show, on Friday, September 8, Hook discussed the case of the 19-year-old woman who alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.
She alleges that she was raped by the man after having consensual sex with a different man who was the swimmer’s friend.
‘She was passed around, went the story,’ Hook told listeners to his lunchtime show. ‘And apparently she went to bed with one guy and he goes out and another guy comes in. She doesn’t want to have relations with the second guy but he forces himself upon her. Awful.’
He continued: ‘But when you then look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him. She has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea of what dangers he might pose.
‘But modern-day social activity means that she goes back with him. Then is surprised when somebody else comes into the room and rapes her.
‘Should she be raped? Course she shouldn’t. Is she entitled to say no? Absolutely. Is the guy who came in a scumbag? Certainly. Should he go to jail? Of Course. All of those things,’ he said. ‘But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?’
‘His comments were unacceptable
Replacement: Newstalk contributor Dr Ciara Kelly
‘Unsatisfied’: Dil Wickremasinghe
Difficult week: Seán Moncrieff
Suspended: George Hook