Hotel group cancels Newstalk sponsorship over Hook rape comments

Rape Crisis Centre says comments can lead to under-reporting

Mr Hook said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for comments” he made about a woman’s "personal responsibility" in an ongoing rape case in the UK.

 

Ireland’s largest hotel group Dalata has cancelled its sponsorship of George Hook’s radio show in protest at the broadcasters’ comments about rape last Friday.

In a Tweet on Monday morning, the company said: “Our commercial relationship with Newstalk and sponsorship of George Hook High Noon has been terminated this morning.”

The company added that it could not “support any radio station that allows inappropiate & hurtful comments to be made”.

It is understood that Dalata’s contract with Newstalk was up for renewal in October. Dalata is the largest hotel operator in Ireland. A publicly-listed company, it operates 32 hotels in Ireland and the UK under the Maldron and Clayton Hotel brands, as well as managing a portfolio of five “partner” hotels.

Hook apologised for the comments in which he asked why a young woman who had just met a man in a bar would go back to his hotel room, in the context of a case where a 19-year-old woman alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.

The chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said comments such as those by Hook could lead to victims of rape and sexual assault not reporting their cases to the authorities.

Noeline Blackwell said Mr Hook’s comments were problematic, wrong, and entirely irresponsible. “When someone is raped the only person responsible is the rapist.”

Speaking during his radio show, High Noon, on Friday Hook discussed the case of the 19-year-old woman who alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team. She alleges that she was raped by the man after having consensual sex with a different man who was the swimmer’s friend.

“She was passed around, went the story. And apparently she went to bed with one guy and he goes out and another guy comes in. She doesn’t want to have relations with the second guy but he forces himself upon her. Awful,” said Hook.

He continued: “But when you then look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him. She has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea of what dangers he might pose.”

“But modern day social activity means that she goes back with him. Then is surprised when somebody else comes into the room and rapes her. Should she be raped? Course she shouldn’t. Is she entitled to say no? Absolutely. Is the guy who came in a scumbag? Certainly. Should he go to jail? Of Course. All of those things,” he said.

“But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?” he said.

Mr Hook also said: “There is personal responsibility because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter. And what determines the daughter who goes out, gets drunk, passes out and is with strangers in her room and the daughter that goes out, stays halfway sober and comes home, I don’t know. I wish I knew. I wish I knew what the secret of parenting is.

“But there is a point of responsibility. The real issues nowadays and increasingly is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety.”

Ms Blackwell said victims of sexual assault should not be made feel they might be partly responsible and it was not a woman’s responsibility “to find places where they are safe from rape”.

Hook issued a statement saying he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for comments” he made about rape on his Newstalk radio programme on Friday.

“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.”

He did not want to comment further when contacted by The Irish Times.

Newstalk also issued an “unreserved apology” for Hook’s comments.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the comments were a matter of real concern given that Mr Hook held a position of high responsibility in Irish public and broadcasting life.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin described the comments as “depressing and unacceptable”.

“Those sorts of comments do actual harm and they’re not acceptable because they do actual harm,” Mr Howlin said.

Asked if Mr Hook should be fired, he said that was a matter for Newstalk. “It would certainly make me a lot less likely to listen to George Hook.”

The station was expected to have a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss the controversy though, a source said, no decision had been made to hold a formal inquiry. It was likely that Mr Hook would be spoken to “about what he can and can’t say”. Such controversies always provoke concerns about programme sponsorship, the source added.

“George Hook’s comments are dangerous, and a perfect encapsulation of rape culture. His comments enable rapists,” the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) said on Twitter.