Hook sus­pended over rape com­ments

■ An­other spon­sor pulls out as Taoiseach says he ab­hors re­marks

Irish Examiner - - News - Joe Leogue Michael Clif­ford: 18

New­stalk has sus­pended pre­sen­ter Ge­orge Hook amid the on­go­ing con­tro­versy sur­round­ing his com­ments on rape last week. The an­nounce­ment came af­ter Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said he ab­hors the com­ments Mr Hook made on his High Noon pro­gramme on Fri­day, Septem­ber 8. Su­per­mar­ket chain Tesco has joined the Dalata Ho­tel Group in with­draw­ing its ad­ver­tis­ing from the show in re­sponse to Mr Hook’s re­marks, for which he has since apol­o­gised. The broad­caster ques­tioned whether the vic­tim of an al­leged rape case in the UK should ac­cept a por­tion of the “blame” for the crime, be­cause she went back to the ho­tel room of a man she had first met that night. “I strongly dis­agree with the com­ments that he made,” Mr Varad­kar told RTÉ’s Morn­ing Ire­land yes­ter­day. “No­body who is raped or sex­u­ally as­saulted is ever re­spon­si­ble for that in any way. I to­tally dis­agree with, and ab­hor, the com­ments that he made. “He has since then, of course, apol­o­gised and apol­o­gised pro­fusely and I think he does un­der­stand that what he said about this is­sue, on that oc­ca­sion and in the past, was un­ac­cept­able. “I think it’s in­dica­tive of at­ti­tudes that still ex­ist in Ir­ish so­ci­ety that need to change.” Mr Hook pre­vi­ously courted con­tro­versy with com­ments he made about a rape case in 2015.

Bos­ton Her­ald colum­nist Michael Gra­ham, a long­time con­trib­u­tor to Mr Hook’s shows, crit­i­cised the sta­tion’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend Mr Hook and said he would not ap­pear on New­stalk while Mr Hook re­mained off-air.

“I can­not bear how the Ir­ish me­dia/ elites/ virtues sig­nal­ing/ anti-free-speech Left has treated a good and de­cent man like [Ge­orge Hook],” Mr Gra­ham said in a se­ries of tweets.

The Na­tional Women’s Coun­cil of Ire­land, which has sub­mit­ted a com­plaint about the re­marks to the Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Ire­land, wel­comed the move.

Di­rec­tor Orla O’Con­nor said: “It shows that New­stalk is tak­ing the mat­ter se­ri­ously, and that they are aware of the ex­tremely dam­ag­ing im­pact these re­marks have on women who have ex­pe­ri­enced rape, par­tic­u­larly on those who are con­sid­er­ing re­port­ing the crime to An Garda Síochána.

“The events this week, from spon­sors pulling their spon­sor­ship to the coura­geous stance taken by staff, both col­lec­tive and in­di­vid­ual, has shown that these views will no longer find a re­cep­tive au­di­ence.”

Mr Hook had pre­sented the show as usual from Mon­day to Thurs­day. He opened Mon­day’s show with an apol­ogy for his re­marks.

“It was wrong of me to sug­gest that any blame could be at­trib­uted to those vic­tims or that they bear any re­spon­si­bil­ity in the crimes com­mit­ted against them,” he said. “By do­ing that I played a part in per­pet­u­at­ing the stigma and I un­re­servedly apol­o­gise for do­ing so.”

Dr Ciara Kelly yes­ter­day stepped in to present Mr Hook’s show.

New­stalk pre­sen­ter Sean Mon­crieff tweeted that it has been “an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult week at New­stalk”. “But I’m im­mensely proud of the pro­fes­sional and brave staff here,” said Mr Mon­crieff.

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