Thursday 22 February 2018

Newstalk criticised by BAI over their handling of George Hook rape comments

George Hook. Photo: Tony Gavin
George Hook. Photo: Tony Gavin

Sean Nolan

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has criticised Newstalk over comments George Hook made on his show about an alleged rape victim, saying the station "failed to take corrective action in a timely fashion".

In their latest report, a complaint made by a listener to Hook's High Noon show over comments the presenter made on September 8 in relation to a UK rape case were upheld.

Mr Hook's comments arose from a rape trial in the UK.

Mr Hook said on air: "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, no idea what dangers he might pose," said Mr Hook.

"But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger? You then of course read that she passed out on the toilet and when she woke up the guy was trying to rape her. There is personal responsibility because it's your daughter and my daughter."

According to the BAI: "The complainant states that it was not appropriate for the presenter to blame an alleged victim of sexual assault for the fact that she was raped."

The complainant went on to say that: "The complainant states that she is personally disappointed and disgusted by the presenter's comments and the lack of response from Newstalk. The complainant states that it took until Saturday lunchtime before Newstalk issued an apology, but only after 24 hours of uproar."

In response to the complaint Newstalk say that the day after the show was broadcast, Saturday, September 9, the presenter and Newstalk issued an apology for the remarks and on Monday, September 11, the presenter issued "a more detailed apology" on air. On September 15, the presenter was suspended from his duties.

In a response to the BAI Newstalk re-iterated the steps taken in the week after and that on September 22 an internal process concluded that the presenter would no longer present High Noon.

It concluded: "The broadcaster maintains that all it can do is apologise again for again for the comments that were made, outline the steps taken to address them and note that it publicly apologised for the comments and accepted that they were totally wrong and inappropriate and should never have been made."

In its finding the BAI upheld the complaint saying: "The Committee considered that the manner and context of raising the issue of personal responsibility in the context of a specific case of alleged rape caused undue offence and there was a strong possibility of causing distress to audience members who might personally identify with this issue."

The finding goes on to say that while they acknowledge that that the broadcaster took action "the Committee was of the view that the broadcaster had failed to take corrective action in a timely fashion, action which may have ameliorated the undue offence caused."

A request has been made to Newstalk for comment.

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