“This is my story, make up your own mind if I am the most evil person who has ever lived.”
That was one comment given by former Nine Network star Don Burke as he strongly denied allegations of sexual harassment and bullying on television last night.
“I don’t remember doing it. I certainly wouldn’t have done it seriously,” was another, he gave when asked by A Current Affair if he’d tried to remove a former staff member’s top.
And why would these women make up these stories?
Well because “it’s a witch hunt”, he said, adding that this post Weinstein world might be contributing to disgruntled employees bringing things up.
“There is a lot of people that don’t like me and they can’t all be wrong. I guess this is the Harvey Weinstein thing and we’ve got a witch hunt.
“I might have terrified a few people, or whatever, and I shouldn’t have done that, but these sort of things bear no relation to me and what I am about.”
He admitted to being a not very nice person. To being stupid. To being deserving of some criticism. To being tough. “I had to be tough.” He admitted to possibly, at times, going a bit too far. He said that he’s looked in the mirror and found a lot he doesn’t like.
He added that can miss the “subtle signs” and body language that people give telling you to “back off, that’s enough” … because he has Asperger’s syndrome (although it hasn’t been medically diagnosed).
But he said the claims being made about harassment and assault are untrue.
That is Don Burke’s story.
There are many, many other stories — many more now since the allegations were published in a joint Fairfax/ABC investigation yesterday morning — that claim Burke was more than just tough, stupid, and deserving of criticism. Women who worked with him during the 1980s and 1990s have shared numerous claims ranging from sexual harassment to bullying and sexual assault.
There are now also more stories of complaints being made to high levels — and more stories indicating it wasn’t just ‘disgruntled’ former employees.
Olympic Gold medallist Susie O’Neil claims that when Burke came to her house for an interview in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics, he stood in front of painting of a flower and said, “Is your c— as big as that?”
O’Neill phoned her manager at the time, Nick Cummins, who then contacted Channel’s Nine’s management and Burke himself — who denied the comment. O’Neill’s management tried to pull the interview, but the network refused. “It has stayed with me all those years,” Cummins told Fairfax media on the incident. O’Neill described the comment as “crude” and “belittling.”
— Kate McClymont (@Kate_McClymont) November 27, 2017
Last night Burke said he has a lot of “failings but I’m not that man.”
His self-assessment didn’t go as far as the words former Nine CEO David Leckie used to describe him, calling him a “horrible, horrible horrible man”, a “dreadful, dreadful piece of work.”
And we’re still wondering, even without the allegations of sexual assault and harassment, how such a “horrible” man managed to sustain a long and successful career in television.