The fallout from Monday’s explosive claims that former TV star, Don Burke, was a serial harasser and abuser of women continues apace with more women coming forward to air their unpleasant experiences.
As reported on B&T yesterday, Burke’s former network Channel Nine could face a possible class action by staff who suffered at the hands of the celebrity gardener if it could be proved it failed in its obligation to provide a safe workplace.
Nine’s case would not be helped by reports on Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that none other than Kerry Packer (then owner of Nine) had warned Burke about his behaviour.
The Tele is reporting that Packer was forced to phone Burke after Olympic swimmer Susie O’Neill lodged a formal complaint against the Burke’s Backyard host prior to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. O’Neill claims Burke had made sexually offensive comments to her after the cameras had stopped rolling.
The claims throw into doubt that Channel Nine management was unaware of Burke’s predatory behaviour while he was employed at the network.
In the latest accusations against Burke, former journalist, Amanda Pepe, told the ABC’s 7.30 that as a naive 20-year-old in the late 80s Burke had try to cajole her to a hotel room for sex while promising her a job on his gardening program.
Nine’s A Current Affair last night ran a segment with renowned fashion designer Julie Neilson who claimed Burke had come to her home to film a TV segment. There Neilson claims Burke “stepped inside and said ‘G’day Jules, I bet you could shock a bad boy. Do you take it up the arse or what?’” He later entered Neilson’s bedroom and pushed her on the bed.
ACA has also reported that Burke was banned from flying on Qantas for a period in the 90s for inappropriate behaviour with its staff.
ABC.net.au has reported Burke allegedly called a couple who lost relatives in the Bali bombing “c@nts” and “wogs”. He also made unwanted advances to a Japanese translator while on a work trip and was thrown out of a Victorian pub for making lewd comments to female patrons.
Former Nine star Wendy Mooney (who co-hosted Don’t Forget Your Tootbrush in 1995) has told News.com.au that she met Burke and started discussing a little piglet that was on Burke’s Backyard each week. Mooney revealed: “I asked him, ‘Was it a boy or girl pig?’, just making conversation, and then he said, ‘Well, if you look up close to it, it’s a girl pig because it has a really big pu**y’, and he made this gesture with his hand, insinuating this big, heavy thing.
“I was so embarrassed,” Mooney said. “I just went back and sat down with my other Channel 9 friends. They asked me if I was OK, I said ‘I just met Don Burke’, and they said, ‘oh, you poor thing … he’s gross, isn’t he?”
In an interview with ACA on Monday, Burke denied the claims against him and said it was all a social media “witch hunt”. Burke also claimed that he suffered from undiagnosed Asperger’s which occasionally made him make poor judgements.
However, CEO of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson, has slammed Burke for using Asperger’s as an excuse for his predatory behaviour.
“What a ridiculous thing for him to say,” Rogerson told Fairfax. “Incredibly hurtful to those people on the autism spectrum and their families because anybody who knows anybody on the autism spectrum would know that there is nothing about having Asperger’s or autism that makes you more or less likely to be a sexual predator, anymore than having red hair makes you more likely.”