Video: Women claim Don Burke sexually harassed them (7.30)
One of Don Burke's high-profile female defenders who wrote a statement supporting the embattled TV star has backtracked on her comments, saying he is not the man she once knew.
Children's author and former Burke's Backyard reporter Jackie French was one of three people the gardening guru turned to for support in the face of allegations of indecent assault, sexual harassment and bullying.
Ms French emailed journalist Tracey Spicer late today saying: "The man that you uncovered is not the one … I knew. So very glad you did."
Spicer has been investigating claims of workplace sexual harassment in the media and entertainment industry.
A joint ABC/Fairfax investigation has uncovered claims from a number of women who worked with Burke in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Burke has strenuously denied all the allegations made against him, saying: "The Harvey Weinstein saga in Hollywood started a witch-hunt."
Photo: Jackie French had earlier provided a statement in support of Burke. (ABC News: David Flannery)
Ms French, who was Senior Australian of the Year in 2015, said in her earlier statement of support that in the decade she worked closely with Burke she never saw "any hint of sexual harassment nor heard gossip about any".
"My personal opinion was and remains that if there had been anything to gossip about in those years, my husband and I would have heard of it, nor could I believe that Don would countenance anything remotely resembling harassment," she wrote.
The statement was provided to the ABC on Sunday by Burke as part of his total denial of the claims levelled at him.
Susie O'Neill accuses Burke of 'crude' comments
Burke continues to face fresh allegations of inappropriate behaviour during the heyday of Burke's Backyard.
Olympic swimmer Susie O'Neill accused him of making "crude and belittling" comments to her during a segment for his popular lifestyle show in 2000.
Photo: Susie O'Neill says she told her manager about alleged comments by Don Burke. (AAP/Fairfax Media)
O'Neill told Fairfax Media she was in her Brisbane home for an interview with Burke and eight male crew members ahead of the Sydney Olympics.
As she stood in front of a large flower painting created by her husband, Burke allegedly asked: "Is your c*** as big as that?"
The eight-time Olympic medallist said she was "flabbergasted" by Burke's "crude and belittling" remarks, and told her manager at the time, Nick Cummins.
Former journalist Amanda Pepe has recounted how Burke asked her to come to Sydney to take up a role with a new program, only to take her to a hotel room.
"The conversation was very sexually charged and all of his conversation for the entire time we were together was talking about his sexual exploits, other people he'd slept with, how they'd reacted," she said.
"The intent was very clear that he expected to have sex, that he'd paid for the room, that I more or less owed it to him, and it was very uncomfortable.
"I think he more or less tried to guilt me into it. 'Well, we've got this far, why wouldn't you finish it off?'
"To this day I'm glad I didn't go through with it.
"He left me at the hotel and I never saw or spoke to him again."
Video: Burke says he is 'an Asperger's person', rejects incest comment (Image: Twitter/A Current Affair) (ABC News)
Burke has also come under fire for his comments to A Current Affair in which he said he had undiagnosed Asperger's.
Katharine Annear, the chairperson of Autistic Advocacy Australia and New Zealand, said when she and her peers heard Burke's comment the first thing they felt was "outrage".
"Kind of a slap in the face in a way, because particularly with … people with Asperger's, despite having social difficulties are quite sensitive," she said.
"But they're unable to process the emotions and information around them as would a neuro-typical person."
External Link: Don Burke's statement to the ABC. Some sections have been redacted for legal reasons....Read more