Don Burke defence: “These things didn’t happen”

Former Burke’s Backyard presenter Don Burke denies harassment allegations levelled against him, in an interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair.

He admitted to affairs and other flaws, but denied the bulk of allegations revealed in the media yesterday.

“I think I’ve got a bit to apologise to… to my family, and also to the people that have supported Burke’s Backyard. There are things I’ve done that I’m not at all proud of,” he said.

“Prior to (wife) Marea’s ill health I had a number of affairs, which I should never have done, and I think I let everybody down. I’m a perfectionist that drove people very hard, and although I felt we did have a happy office, there’s clearly, when you look at the people complaining now, there’s a lot of people that don’t like me. They can’t all be wrong.”

But whilst he acknowledged he wasn’t always the easiest employer to work for, he continued to deny the most severe allegations as published by Fairfax Media and ABC.

“It’s a witch hunt. I might have terrified a few people, or whatever, and that I shouldn’t have done that, but these sort of things there no relation to who I am and what I am about. There are plenty of people who were there at the time and are furious, because these things didn’t happen.”

But A Current Affair, which last featured Burke in September, gave him no free passes.

“These aren’t rumours,” Grimshaw insisted. “Women are making allegations about what happened to them. They intimidated me, he bullied me, he harassed me?

“Might you be guilty of these things?” Grimshaw asked.

“Absolutely not. What I defended is the words that I have been (alleged) to say. I do apologise that I gave them a horrible time but a lot of those words have grown over the years. A lot of this was 30 years ago. Who remembers what happens 30 years ago?” Burke said.

Fairfax today continues its take-down of the once high-flying TV personality, with allegations including from former Olympic swimmer Susie O’Neill and even a former ACA producer who worked with him recently.

Last night Grimshaw told Burke, “I was told a story years ago by a producer about you. You said that you were a geneticist and if you reproduced with this young family member, the baby would have
the perfect gene pool.”

“I don’t understand. You are talking about incest? Absolutely not. I don’t believe that about myself,” Burke replied.

Burke also claimed he had Asperger’s syndrome, but admitted he had never been medically diagnosed with the condition.

​”I can look at a lens but I have difficulty looking at people in the eye,” he said. “I missed the body language and the subtle signs that people give you. I don’t see that. I suffer from a terrible problem with that. Not seeing. No one can understand how you can’t see it. But you don’t.”

Autism Awareness Australia distanced itself from his remarks.

Meanwhile 3 women interviewed by ABC’s 7:30 went before the cameras to repeat their allegations levelled in the media yesterday. They include former researcher Louise Langdon, ex-senior producer Bridget and former actress Wendy Dent.

 

Ex CTC Productions managing director Michael Freedman defended Burke under questioning by Leigh Sales.

“I worked for Don between 1991 and 1998. Quite a long time,” he said. “And I was the general manager of CTC Productions. This was after the program was taken independents from Channel Nine. During that entire time I did not receive one allegation of sexual harassment of any untoward sexual behaviour by Don Burke to any member of staff or any member of the general public.

He continued: “I might add that a number of them I think were apparently given to Channel Nine. Channel Nine never brought any of those accusations to me as well. So my role in CTC Productions was to manage Don’s production company but also to be a liaison with Channel Nine. At no  time did Channel Nine bring any of those accusations to me.”

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