Monday 22 July 2019

'Hook's views part of a culture of misogyny and sexism' - minister

Newstalk sources say broadcaster 'unlikely to return' to post

Mary Mitchell O’Connor said ‘High Noon’ presenter George
Hook’s comments on rape were a ‘disgrace’. Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Mitchell O’Connor said ‘High Noon’ presenter George Hook’s comments on rape were a ‘disgrace’. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor

A female member of the Cabinet says broadcaster George Hook's controversial comments about rape are representative of a "deeply embedded culture of misogyny, sexism, double standards and victim blaming".

In a hard-hitting intervention, Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said Irish society often excuses men charged with rape or sexual assault in cases where alcohol has been consumed.

The Dún Laoghaire TD told the Irish Independent it was essential the "realities around consent" were made "crystal clear" to future generations.

"George Hook's comments were a disgrace. There is no simpler way to say it. Sadly they are representative of a deeply embedded culture in Ireland of misogyny, of sexism, of double standards and of victim blaming," Ms Mitchell O'Connor said last night.

"While we have to welcome his apology, we also have to highlight that every time a statement like this is made it gives silent assent to others who share the same backward, insulting view."

The minister hit out at what she says is a willingness to absolve men who carried out such crimes if they take place after a night out.

George Hook. Photo: Damien Eagers
George Hook. Photo: Damien Eagers

"We need to challenge those who are privileged enough to have a voice to use their platform more responsibly; particularly when they use that voice to belittle victims or distort facts.

"We live in a society where quite often if a man is charged with rape or sexual assault we hear that he acted 'out of character' as he had been drinking," she said.

"While women who are victims of these acts are blamed because they had been drinking. Think about that?

"The man is absolved of blame for his act, the woman is shamed. It is a shameful double standard.

"In short, rape is never the victim's fault. And we have work to do to ensure that the concept and realities of consent are crystal clear to the next generation."

Her comments came as Newstalk sources told this newspaper that it was "highly unlikely" Mr Hook would return to his presenting role following his suspension.

It has emerged that a number of other high-profile presenters at the station were part of the almost 20 people who signed a letter calling on Mr Hook to be taken off the air.

Several commercial advertisers have also confirmed they will not take out advertisements during the radio slot if Mr Hook is the presenter.

The Dalata Hotel Group also withdrew its sponsorship from Newstalk as it could not "support any radio station that allows inappropriate and hurtful comments to be made".

The sponsorship for 'High Noon' was believed to be worth up to €250,000. Other firms, such as Tesco, have followed suit.

It was announced on Friday that Mr Hook had been suspended by Newstalk as the fallout from his controversial on-air comments about a rape case in the UK continued.

Mr Hook's remarks on his show on September 8 were made while he discussed the case of a woman (19), who alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.

A number of complaints have been made to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland regarding Mr Hook's comments, including one which was received from the Women's Council of Ireland.

Irish Independent

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