BYE GE­ORGE

Hook fi­nally sus­pended by new­stalk af­ter ads are pulled from sta­tion

Irish Daily Mirror - - NEWS - BY PAT FLANA­GAN

GE­ORGE Hook may never be al­lowed to broad­cast again be­cause his brand is so toxic, it was claimed last night.

The spec­u­la­tion comes af­ter the 76-year-old presenter was sus­pended from New­stalk yes­ter­day as the con­tro­versy over his com­ments about rape es­ca­lated. Tesco be­came the lat­est com­pany to dis­tance it­self from his High Noon show an­nounc­ing it will no longer place ad­verts if Ge­orge Hook is in­volved. The vet­eran broad­caster looked de­jected yes­ter­day when he ar­rived at his plush home in Foxrock, South Dublin, shortly be­fore 1pm when he should have been pre­sent­ing his lunchtime show. He would not com­ment but said to the Ir­ish Mir­ror’s pho­tog­ra­pher: “I’ve noth­ing to say but I know you’re only do­ing your jobs.” It is un­der­stood he had been meet­ing with New­stalk bosses who in­formed him he was be­ing taken off the air­waves. Pres­sure has been mount­ing on the sta­tion to dump him af­ter the show’s main spon­sor, Clay­ton Ho­tels ter­mi­nated its deal over the broad­caster’s com­ments last Mon­day. The de­par­ture of su­per­mar­ket gi­ant Tesco and fears other ma­jor ad­ver­tis­ers might join them left New­stalk will lit­tle choice but to sus­pend Mr Hook. It is now thought he may never be back at the sta­tion and friends fear his ca­reer is over. An in­dus­try insider said: “The re­al­ity is Ge­orge’s brand is now so toxic New­stalk can’t put him back on the air even if they wanted to. “When the ad­ver­tis­ers are pulling out it’s hard to see a way back for him. Who is go­ing to want their brand to be as­so­ci­ated with him or any show he is on? “When you have the Taoiseach com­ing out crit­i­cis­ing what Ge­orge said then it doesn’t look good.” New­stalk yes­ter­day con­firmed the sus­pen­sion, adding: “The process re­gard­ing his com­ments last week is on­go­ing.” The con­tro­versy cen­tres around com­ments Hook made about a UK rape case. Ques­tion­ing why the al­leged vic­tim

had gone back to the ho­tel room of a man she had just met, ask­ing: “Is there no blame now to the per­son who puts them­selves in dan­ger?” His sus­pen­sion fol­lows wide­spread con­dem­na­tion from groups in­clud­ing the Na­tional Women’s Coun­cil of Ire­land. Min­utes be­fore his sus­pen­sion was an­nounced Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar voiced his con­cern about the com­ments. He told RTE’S Morn­ing Ire­land: “No­body who is raped or sex­u­ally as­saulted is re­spon­si­ble in any way,” adding the presenter’s com­ments were “in­dica­tive of at­ti­tudes that still ex­ist in Ir­ish so­ci­ety that need to change”. Mr Hook apol­o­gised on Mon­day for his com­ments but the move failed to quell grow­ing calls for him to be sacked. A protest was held out­side New­stalk call­ing for him to be taken off the air, with a ban­ner held aloft call­ing for an end to the cul­ture of vi­o­lence against women. As pres­sure on the sta­tion grew, Tesco con­firmed on Thurs­day it had ceased ad­ver­tis­ing dur­ing Hook’s show. The su­per­mar­ket gi­ant said: “We con­firm we have re­stricted the air­ing of our ad­verts around this par­tic­u­lar show in the short term, although we keep this un­der re­view.” RTE star Mairead Ro­nan backed the con­tro­ver­sial broad­caster’s sus­pen­sion. The for­mer To­day FM pro­ducer in­sisted Hook should have known bet­ter but added she had sym­pa­thy for those work­ing behind the scenes. The 37-year-old said: “Ge­orge re­ally should have known bet­ter. I was away last week­end and only heard the com­ments in their en­tirety lis­ten­ing to the Sean O’rourke show. “To hear him say it out loud, it sounded worse.” Mean­while, co­me­dian Oliver Cal­lan took a swipe at New­stalk fol­low­ing the Hook sus­pen­sion, tweet­ing: “It’s de­spair­ing a firm only takes ac­tion against sex­ism when it dam­ages the com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of the com­pany.” Other New­stalk staff were un­happy Hook was not re­moved as soon as he made the com­ments and some signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for ac­tion. Presenter Dil Wick­re­mas­inghe, who hosts the sta­tion’s Global Vil­lage show, is­sued a state­ment say­ing she would be go­ing off-air in protest at the han­dling of the is­sue.” news@irish­mir­ror.ie

But as New­stalk waited for al­most a week be­fore re­mov­ing him it ap­pears it bowed to com­mer­cial rather than moral pres­sure. There have been claims the host is be­ing vic­timised and others have in­sisted calls for his re­moval amount to a witch hunt. Mr Hook is not a vic­tim and ap­peals for him to go are not an at­tack on free speech. The ac­tion is a re­sponse to claims vic­tims are in some way re­spon­si­ble for be­ing raped and that is not and can never be the case.

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