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One a day Live

George Hook discusses impact of comments on family

Newstalk broadcaster George Hook has said that people rang up his son’s customers and asked them why they were doing business with the "son of a rapist" following his controversial comments about the topic on his programme last September, writes Olivia Kelleher.

In an interview with the Neil Prendeville show, on Cork’s Red FM, Mr Hook said he readily accepted his comments were wrong and indefensible.

However, he said his family had suffered arising out of the furore that surrounded his remarks.

"I am watching my family take the brunt of it. My son -- people rang up his customers and he runs the biggest rugby tour company in this country. They rang up his customers with words to the effect of "why are you doing business with the son of a rapist?" I brought this on my family."

The broadcaster, who returns to Newstalk tomorrow, stepped down from hosting his lunchtime show in late September following comments he had made earlier that month on air during which he discussed the case of a woman who claimed she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.

In the course of the show he said "Is there no blame to the person who puts themselves in danger?"

Mr Hook said he had handled the item in an "unprofessional" manner and that it was a big item to do off the cuff. He readily accepted that he had dealt with the issue "badly" on air and that he "regretted" his words.

However, he said what really disappointed him was the "Fake News" that followed in the subsequent media reports.

"I don’t think there was a true word written in the newspapers in the weeks after that event. There wasn’t one sentence that was entirely true.

"It was the most extraordinary thing. Trump had brought up this thing fake news and we all said ’Ah nonsense, nonsense, nonsense there is no such thing as fake news.’ But I was reading day after day of fake news.

"I was reading it and saying the so called quality press, I can understand some mickey mouse crowd acting like this, but the quality press rang up every person who had worked with me in the last fifteen years and essentially said ’Have you any dirt on Hook?’"

Mr Hook said that he was "very proud" that in almost 16 years of broadcasting not one person had come forward with any "dirt" on him.

He insisted that one of the ramifications of the fall out going forward involves the impact on the media of the "Twitterati."

"What is finished now for ever and the message from me and my downfall will resonate throughout radio. I am not trying to make myself in to a martyr. I think an awful lot of people who broadcast today will now look at items and say ’should we really do this?’. Are the Twitterati going to be the determining factor of radio or television success. Are they going to decide?"

He stressed that he was "finished" by around 200 people.

"There were 150,000 people listening to me and there were probably 200 took me down. I am not defending it. I am not defending it at all. I have apologised twice. If people want me to apologise three times I will apologise three times. I know what I did. I know it was wrong. I am not happy about it. And I paid the price for it."

The Cork born broadcaster said he was grateful for the "goodwill" of people on the streets. He is still replying to letters from people who felt compelled to contact him after the controversy.

He added that Kevin Myers, whom he described as a "good mate," was really speaking for him on the Claire Byrne show.

"Because what he said was ’I have a right to be wrong.’ I was wrong there is no doubt about that. I have never denied that. I was wrong. But like Myers I was clumsy.

"We are in one of the toughest businesses of all because it is live radio so if we say something we can’t take it back. There is no sub editor to say ’Write that a different way’. We have said it. It is on the airwaves. It is done. I do radio live. I don’t have any notes. I just do. And I did that off the seat of my pants.

"First of all that was unprofessional to do something as important as that because that was a big item to do it off the seat of my pants was unprofessional. I handled it extremely badly."

Mr Hook said there was "incredible opportunism" in the wake of his comments and that he bore no animosity towards his employer for how they handled the situation.

"They (Newstalk) didn’t really have a lot of choice. I understood exactly. There was no animosity between me and the radio station at all. I sat there and let the cards fall where they may.

"There was incredible opportunism. The hotel group that sponsored the programme says with great integrity ’We can’t possible continue to sponsor this man’. They had two weeks left in their sponsorship.

"The radio station is a commercial operation. And a commercial radio station has to look at its advertising and everything else. I had no difficulty with that." 

He also said he was not somebody who was controversial for the sake of being controversial.

"The thing is that people often said to me when I was on television or radio or whatever that I was controversial for the sake of being controversial. And I sort of said ’Well you never really knew me before I was on radio when I was just in a pub opinionating’. So therefore I can’t see George non opinionating because I have thought about that quite a lot."

He said he has spent the last few months catching up with his eight grandchildren, reading and watching shows on Netflix.

He told Neil Prendeville that being off air made him realise how hard he had been pushing himself and that he was now "better off."

However, he jokingly refuted any suggestion that he could find himself in the future line ups of Dancing with the Stars insisting that he could "never follow Dessie." (Cahill)

Mr Hook will be on air on Newstalk tomorrow with Hook’s Saturday Sit-In which will be broadcast from 8am to 10am.