Saturday 20 January 2018

Newstalk launch 'full investigation' into George Hook's controversial rape comments

Newstalk show host George Hook Photo: David Conachy
Newstalk show host George Hook Photo: David Conachy
Jane Last

Jane Last

NEWSTALK has launched a full investigation into how afternoon show presenter George Hook made his controversial statement about rape victims on air.

Sources inside the station have said “a process has started” at the broadcaster trying to get to the bottom of how Mr Hook’s remarks which caused widespread dismay, were aired.

Adrian Serle, the chief executive of Newstalk’s parent company, Communicorp, has already spoken to staff about the review.

“He told the team in the station that a review is underway and a process has started. It will cover all aspects of the broadcast and he said it would be conducted in a very respective manner. Staff were told that the station would not be railroaded into a decision by social media or media commentary,” said the source.

“The review will not be rushed but it is expected to report fairly soon,” the source added.

Depending on the results of the review, the future of the afternoon show in its current format and its presenter will be centre stage.

George Hook
George Hook

Mr Serle told staff they are treating the incident with the utmost seriousness, and recognised the hurt the comments had caused.

“The mood over the weekend and earlier this week was downbeat but the team are determined to move on. We are all professionals and we recognise we have got to put this behind us and continue to produce good radio which is an alternative to RTE,” said a station insider.

“Are there lessons to be learned? Big time. But first of all we have to continue to produce shows that audiences want and then implement the changes. It is really important that radio listeners have a viable choice to RTE,” the source added.

Newstalk apologised for the comments made by Hook over the weekend, with Hook himself apologising twice. The station also announced an inquiry into the incident.

The internal review also comes after it emerged Hook's controversial comments cost Newstalk a six-figure sponsorship deal, and led to one guest walking off another show.

The Dalata group, Ireland’s largest hotel operator, terminated its contract with the station on Monday, saying it could not “support any radio station that allows inappropriate and hurtful comments to be made”.

The sponsorship for ‘High Noon’ is believed to be worth about €250,000 although in reality Dalata would probably have negotiated a discount on this rate.

The spiralling row spread to other shows last night when singer Mary Coughlan walked out of ‘The Hard Shoulder’ with Ivan Yates, saying she was unhappy with Hook's comments. She cut the interview short and said she couldn’t go on. She claimed it “wasn’t the first time” Mr. Hook had made inflammatory comments about women.

Later, Ms Coughlan told independent.ie her three daughters encouraged her to do the protest and that they were “extremely proud of her” after the stand.

“This isn’t the first time Hook has made comments such as these. The comments have absolutely no respect for the victims of abuse in this country,” she said. “He should be fired, for God’s sake.”

On Monday Mr Hook issued an unreserved apology on air.

“I want to start the programme with a profound apology,” he told listeners.

“I made comments about rape on the programme that were totally inappropriate and unacceptable and I should never have made them. I realise that those comments caused widespread hurt and offence and for this too I am truly sorry.

“I would particularly like to apologise to all victims of rape, their families, the organisations who work day and night to reduce the stigma around rape and also for those who try and increase reporting of crimes involving sexual violence against men and women.

“It was wrong of me to suggest that any blame could be attributed to those victims...by doing that I played a part in perpetuating the stigma and I unreservedly apologise for doing so.”

Mr Hook’s comments last week 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. “Is there no blame to the person who puts themselves in danger?” he asked.

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

"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."

Writing for independent.ie, rape survivor Dominique Meehan said she didn't accept George Hook's apology.

"His comments, which suggested there was an element of 'personal responsibility' when it came to instances of rape, hurt too many people," she wrote.

"I have no sympathy for him whatosever. He is a man in his 70s who has been on the radio for a number of years and he should have known better.

"When I heard his comments, it was so painful," she said.

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