In a bid to restore his reputation after being accused of sexual harassment by several former female employees, veteran television presenter Don Burke told the nation yesterday he is innocent of the “sexy and sleazy stuff”. And that he also has self-diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.
Yet, the 70-year-old former host of Channel Nine’s Burke’s Backyard, who was the subject of an investigation into sexual harassment from Fairfax and the ABC made public yesterday, has never before spoken about being on the autism spectrum and admitted he’s not received a medical diagnosis.
Appearing on A Current Affair last night, Burke mentioned Asperger’s after he was asked if he’s ever joked about incest.
Journalist Tracy Grimshaw told Burke she’d personally heard from a co-worker how he’d once claimed to have “the perfect genes” and that if he reproduced with a particular family member they’d make a “genetically perfect baby”.
On this bonus episode of Out Loud, Holly, Rachel and Jessie discuss Don Burke and ask the question – what happens next?
In an attempt to deny the allegation, Burke told Grimshaw he doesn’t actually think his genes are “perfect’.
“For a start, I’m an Asperger’s person,” he said. “And I have a lot of failings that are genetic.”
When Grimshaw asked Burke why he’s never previously spoken about having Asperger’s, Burke said he’s always struggled “looking people in the eye” and misses social cues.
“I haven’t been medically diagnosed but I’ve worked it out and that’s what I’ve got,” he said. “What it is – and it’s a terrible failing – I have real difficulty looking anyone in the eye.”
“I miss all the body language and the subtle signs people give to you, such as ‘back off that’s enough’. 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.”