The Don Burke file: ‘Can I lick your back?’
As the allegations against Don Burke pile up, here’s a rundown of the claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour denied by the TV star.
The gardening guru has faced a slew of accusations this week after an ABC/Fairfax investigation reported allegations of “predatory” conduct towards women he worked with in the 1980s and 1990s.
Burke, 70, strongly denies all the claims and says they came about because he was a perfectionist and sometimes “wasn’t a nice person”, but that he never crossed the line.Controversies rock Hollywood in 2017
THE ALLEGATIONS (NEWEST TO OLDEST)
Nov 29 : TV personality Kerri-Anne Kennerly says Burke’s “language was appalling” on the occasions she interviewed him. “I’m not a shrinking violet ... but to me he always was just that little bit worse,” she said, during an interview on Triple M Adelaide’s Roo and Ditts show. She also said there were “a whole bunch of people” in the TV industry at the time who sexually harassed women.
Nov 29: Sports journalist Caroline Wilson says Don Burke asked if he could lick her back at the 1996 Logie Awards, when she was pregnant. The Age reporter tells ABC Radio National she said sorry for turning her back, and the star replied: “Not at all. Do you mind if I lick it?”Camille Grammer opens up about cancer diagnosis
Nov 29: Journalist Richard Glover shares a profile he wrote for Fairfax in 1991 in which he revealed Burke’s colleagues called him “the Antichrist” and described him as “arrogant, conceited, egotistical and obsessive”. He says he “tried to smuggle some of the sexual allegations” into the piece but didn’t have enough evidence. Even so, Burke threatened to sue him. Meanwhile, ex-colleagues Tziporah Malkah (formerly known as Kate Fischer) and Ita Buttrose say they never heard any allegations against Burke.
Nov 29: Channel Nine boss Hugh Marks opens a special line for people to report past abuse, telling network staff they “can’t rewrite history”.
Nov 29: Fashion designer Julie Neilson tells A Current Affair that Burke made sexual comments, including asking: “Do you take it up the arse?” when he visited her home to interview her. In a break from filming, she says he hooked his legs around hers and tried to push her on to a bed. She claims it put her off television work for good.Assault laws in focus amid Weinstein saga
Nov 29: Media mogul Kerry Packer personally called Burke and ordered him to behave after Olympic swimmer Susie O’Neill lodged a formal complaint against the presenter in 2000, a former Channel 9 employee tells the Daily Telegraph,castingdoubt on Nine’s statement it didn’t know about the issue at the time.
Nov 29: A TV researcher who worked for Burke’s Backyard in 2003 tells the ABC that during a garden makeover for a couple who lost family in the Bali bombing, he referred to them as “c**ts” and “wogs”. Two former staff say he reportedly made lewd comments to a Japanese translator on a 2003 work trip. An interviewee from the early 1990s says Burke told her the chat had been “a bit like going to the gynaecologist”, while a former ballet dancer who appeared in an advert with the star says he “leered” and commented on how tight her top was. A former employee at Isle of Wight Hotel on Phillip Island in Victoria says in 2002, Burke was asked to leave the premises for making lewd comments to young women.
Nov 28: Former Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush presenter Wendy Mooney tells news.com.au Burke made a “disgusting” remark to her at a network lunch. The then 24-year-old says Burke told her a piglet “has a really big p***y” and made a lewd gesture. She says her Channel 9 crew seemed unsurprised, telling her: “He’s gross, isn’t he?”Jazz and pop singer Keely Smith dies at 89
Nov 28: Channel 10 star Jessica Rowe says she found Burke “crude and belittling” when he told her he loved “a good f**k” during a panel discussion on whether Australians swear too much on 2011’s Can of Worms.
Nov 28: Ms O’Neill tells ABC/Fairfax the Burke’s Backyard star made a crude comment when visiting her home for an episode of the show in the run-up to the Sydney 2000 Games. She alleged Burke pointed to a painting of a flower and asked: “Is your c**t as big as that?” Her manager contacted Channel 9 and Burke himself to complain.
Nov 28: A Current Affair journalist Alison Piotrowski says Burke made inappropriate comments when they worked at 2UE in Sydney in the mid- to late-2000s. Ms Piotrowski said she was berated by him for being late to a broadcast, but then half an hour later he told her “all was forgiven because I had a great arse.”The untold truth of Omarosa
Nov 27: The celebrity gardener tells ACA “people don’t like me” but denies being a sexual predator and a bully. He says he is the victim of a “witch hunt” following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and blames self-diagnosed Asperger’s and other “genetic failings” for his missing “body language and the subtle signs”. The claim came in response to an allegation he once told a female producer that if he had a child with a relative that child would be genetically perfect.
Nov 27: Former TV journalist Amanda Pepe tells ABC/Fairfax she met Burke when he was filming in Broken Hill, and he persuaded the then 20-year-old to fly to Sydney “for a job”. Ms Pepe said “no such job existed, just a sad hotel room” where she had to fight him off. “There was a lot of physical pushing,” she said, adding that it led her to give up journalism.Ed Sheeran reveals he wrote James Bond theme three years ago
Nov 27: A former print journalist who went behind-the-scenes for a story about Burkes show, tells ABC/Fairfax Burke asked her to sit on his lap, and made “revolting and sexual comments” about plants to a horrified elderly lady while filming an episode. “He said one flower looked like female genitalia after giving birth. Another he said looked like a clitoris.”
Nov 27: The ABC/Fairfax report alleges Burke’s former colleagues called him a “psychotic bully”, a “misogynist” and a “sexual predator” who sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees. Former Burke’s Backyard producer Bridget Ninness, who launched legal action against Burke for psychological abuse, says the star was “a vile, vile human being” whose constant “lewd and crude” talk of sex was “designed to confront you and to demean you”. Former researcher Louise Langdon alleges Burke tried to remove her top, “put his foot into my rear end” and said it wasn’t firm enough. Wendy Dent says Burke offered her a topless audition when she was working as an entertainer at the Melbourne Garden Show in 1995, aged 21. Another researcher says Burke grabbed her breast on a rooftop. A reporter who interviewed Burke says he boasted about the size of his “c**k” and told her he’d bought a horse for a young relative “because I love watching her rub her c**t on its back”. Three former Nine executives tell reporters they knew Burke’s behaviour was unacceptable. Burke strongly denies all the allegations in a lengthy statement.