Don Burke admits affairs, blames Asperger's
ACCUSED serial sex pest and bully Don Burke claims he is the victim of a "witch hunt" and is paying for the sins of his Channel 9 past.
The under-siege TV star told A Current Affair's Tracy Grimshaw he had "no recollection" of explicit claims of predatory workplace harassment, but denied categorically he was guilty of the litany of lewd, lecherous misconduct charges levelled against him.
"I'm not that man at all," he said. "I've got a lot of failings. Some of these things are despicable."
ACA's Grimshaw grilled Burke over the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, asking him: "Why would all these women make this up?"
Burke told Grimshaw he had "genetic failings" and that he had diagnosed himself with Asperger's syndrome.
"I have difficulty looking people in the eye. I miss 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."
Beginning the interview by admitting he had repeatedly cheated on his wife, Marea - who battled breast cancer and AVM, a blood vessel malformation, the former gardening show presenter said: "I think I've got a bit to apologise for to my family and also to the people who supported Burke's Backyard. There are things I've done that I'm not at all proud.
"Prior to Marea's ill health, I had a number of affairs which I shouldn't ever have done and I think I let everybody down with that.
Attempting to explain the tsunami of former staff complaints, he said:"I'm a perfectionist that drove people very hard and although I felt we did have a happy office, this clearly, when you look at the people who are complaining now, there's a lot of people that don't like me."
In the first of many vague, confused or baffling defences used by Burke during the interview, he said of his adultery: "With the value of hindsight, it might have set a view from some of our staff that I wasn't a nice person, perhaps".
Burke said towards the end of his time on Burke's Backyard "I don't think I was a very good person" and that he "must have been a bear with a bloody sore head and I do apologise for that."
He denied making misogynist and "sleazy" comments. He said he and his colleagues ran "an anti-misogynist ship" at the Burke's Backyard office.
When asked by Grimshaw why all of Burke's accusers would make their allegations up, Burke said: "It's the social media, it's the Twittersphere".
Burke said the recent Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal "reinforces the victim mentality of women" and that his accusers saw the Weinstein era as the perfect excuse to "nail" him.
"I am happy to say to the people of Australia: this is my story, make up your mind if I'm the most evil person that's ever lived, that's your decision," Burke told Grimshaw.
"If you can forgive me for the stupidity and the other things I have done then I am very grateful, but I think that's their decision not mine.
"I have looked in the mirror and there's a lot I don't like. But that's up to the people of Australia to decide can they forgive me or not."
The former manager of Don Burke's production company, Michael Freedman, told ABC's 7.30 he found the allegations of bullying and sexual harassment "absolutely bewildering because it doesn't seem to me to represent the Don Burke that I know".
Freedman, who worked for Burke between 1991 and 1998, said: "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.
Freedman said there were rumours of Burke being a "tough taskmaster and a difficult man to work with".