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'A victim is never to blame': Chris Donoghue addresses Hook rape comments on Newstalk show

It’s reported a disciplinary investigation is to begin at Newstalk tomorrow.

NEWSTALK PRESENTER CHRIS Donoghue discussed the controversy over George Hook’s comments about rape on his Sunday morning programme today, saying that he was motivated to speak out and publicly criticise his radio colleague as he was aware of the “extreme responsibility” all staff of the station feel when it comes to covering the issue.

Hook and Newstalk yesterday issued unreserved apologies for comments made by the veteran broadcaster on his High Noon show on Friday, in which he asked “is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”.

That followed sustained criticism of his comments over the previous 24 hours. Campaigners and former abuse victims took to Twitter to decry Hook’s comments as ignorant and dangerous, while Donoghue described the remarks as “disgusting”. Multiple posts by Twitter users called for Hook to be taken off air.

chris Chris Donoghue. Source: Newstalk

The controversy shows little sign of immediately dying down, and has received coverage in a number of Sunday newspapers this morning.

Acknowledging his colleague’s “full apology” over the comments, Donoghue said he had been critical of Hook as “this is a black and white issue – there is no grey space when it comes to rape”.

A victim is never to blame – that is very much so my view.

The presenter, who has worked at the Communicorp station since 2004, said all of his colleagues – from senior editors to reporters – “know the extreme responsibility they feel – that when you are dealing with rape it is not a story, it is a person’s life and when you ask somebody to, for example, come on the radio, that is a major thing for them to do”.

It was part of my motivation for [speaking out] because I know how responsible all my colleagues are about that.

Donoghue, who discussed the issue with his panel of contributors, said he had been attacked as “rat” and a “snowflake” in the wake of his Twitter posts criticising Hook. The attacks hadn’t been taking issue with his stance against victim-blaming, he said, but were of his decision to challenge Hook’s right to air his views.

Hook’s full comments from Friday’s show can be read here, in our article from yesterday.

Former senator Maíria Cahill – a victim of abuse and a subsequent cover-up within the Republican movement – wrote on Friday that she was “fuming” over Hook’s comments.

Cahill later posted the text of an email of complaint she was writing to Newstalk in which she wrote that the remarks were “dangerous in terms of encouraging rape victims to report their rapes”.

“Victim blaming at its worst and complete ignorance as to its impact on women who have been raped,” Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council of Ireland wrote on Twitter. Author Louise O’Neill called his remarks “toxic”.

Hook’s statement, released by Newstalk’s PR company yesterday lunchtime, said:

I wish to apologise unreservedly for comments I made about rape on my radio programme on Newstalk yesterday. It was unacceptable to suggest in any way that blame could be attributed to victims of rape. I apologise for the comments which caused hurt and offence, and for this I am truly sorry.

hook1 George Hook Source: Newstalk

Front pages 

The controversy over Hook’s comments gets front-page treatment in the Irish Daily Mail today – with the paper noting Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan’s rebuke of the presenter’s Friday remarks. Flanagan, according to the paper, described them as a “matter of real concern given that George Hook holds a position of very high responsibility in Irish public and broadcasting life”.

The Sunday Times reports that a disciplinary investigation is due to start in Newstalk tomorrow, while the Sunday Business Post reports that the main sponsor of Hook’s High Noon show, Dalata – which owns the Clayton Hotels – is threatening to end its association with the presenter.

Noeleen Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre will speak “about personal responsibility  and “why public figures need to exercise it when discussing attacks on women,” according to clips today trailing the This Week programme on RTÉ Radio 1.

  • Rape Crisis Centre 1800 778 888
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Claim George Hook spoke about HPV vaccine in ‘ill-informed and irresponsible’ manner rejected >

Read: ‘Very strong winds’ on the way as Met Éireann issues weather warning for west >

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