Newstalk has concluded its review of the circumstances that led to George Hook’s recent rape remarks, which results in the radio presenter “stepping down” from his weekday slot to “take on” a new weekend show, writes Joyce Fegan.
“Words are powerful. Choose them well,” were the words written on the front page of The Daily Telegraph on August 29.
It seems that Newstalk got its copy of that edition but George, perhaps, didn’t.
On Friday, September 8, Hook spoke live on air about a trial involving an alleged sexual assault.
He pondered: “Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”
His words were met with uproar, described as “victim blaming at its worst”, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) asserting that “his comments enabled rapists”.
As the outpouring of rage at his careless and harmful words continued, Dalata — Ireland’s largest hotel group — pulled its sponsorship of his radio show. Then, on Monday, September 11, the broadcaster, 76, went on air with a “profound” apology.
We thought that was that, but the outrage continued and George remained on the air.
Colleagues at Newstalk drafted a ‘never-sent’ letter asking that he be removed.
On the evening of Thursday, September 14, Tesco announced that it too was pulling advertisements on the broadcaster’s lunchtime show.
Later that night, Hook’s Newstalk colleague Dil Wickremasinghe said she would not host her Saturday night show, Global Village, in protest. The next day, Hook was “suspended”.
But, by this stage, the uproar had taken another turn.
There was now rage over a “witchhunt” that had ensued against Hook.
Some people said they agreed with his comments, saying they were only uttered as part of his right to “freedom of speech” and that the “PC (politically correct) brigade” had silenced him.
Others emphasised the fundamental flaw in his remarks, calling them out as “wrong” but criticised the continued anger towards him.
Meanwhile, helplines at rape crisis centres clogged up as calls from survivors of sexual assault were triggered by a debate that failed to serve them.
We were no longer debunking unhelpful cultural myths about sexual assault, instead, the discussion had splintered off into one that divided those for and against Hook.
A new week arrived and the airwaves, the newspapers and Twittersphere had moved on.
Then, yesterday at 2.07pm, Newstalk issued a statement regarding its review of the situation.
The carefully-worded statement said that George had a new show.
Online commentators quipped about a “sideways” promotion and the NWCI said that “more needs to be done by Newstalk,” considering that the broadcaster is to return to the station.
Meanwhile, Hook deleted his Twitter account. Maybe he was hurt after days of unpleasant words being sent his way.
As for the thousands of survivors of sexual assault? The words they usually want to hear are: “It wasn’t your fault.”
Words are powerful. Choose them well.
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