George Hook suspended over rape comments

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 long-time 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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