Burke’s revolting insult to swim legend Susie O'Neill

OLYMPIC swimming legend Susie O'Neill has accused former Channel 9 presenter Don Burke of making a revolting insult to her when he visited her home in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Games.

Burke was at her Brisbane home with two male crew members filming a segment for gardening show Burke's Backyard when she showed him a painting of a flower by her husband.

According to Fairfax, Burke asked O'Neill: "Is your c*** as big as that?"

O'Neill is the latest woman to accuse the celebrity gardener of bad behaviour, after an ABC-Fairfax investigation exposed claims of Burke sexual harassing and bullying co-workers.

The Olympic gold medallist was shocked by her encounter with the TV veteran.

"It was crude and it was belittling," she told Fairfax.

Former Olympian Susie O'Neill. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Former Olympian Susie O'Neill. Picture: Tim Hunter.

O'Neill's management tried to pull the program after the comments, but Channel 9 refused, according to the report.

Burke, 70, has denied allegations in the ABC-Fairfax investigation that he was a "psychotic bully", a "misogynist" and a "sexual predator" who sexually harassed and bullied a number of female staffers.

The allegations, aired in detail on ABC current affairs show 7.30 last night, include that he groped the breasts of two TV researchers, that he tried to remove the clothing of one of the researchers and that he told a young actor that she would have to audition topless for his show.

Speaking to A Current Affair last night, Burke admitted to "bullying" co-workers but rejected claims he had sexually harassed anyone.

"I think in part, I deserve this, but not for all that sleazy sexual stuff," he said.

"The bullying may be true, and maybe they don't forgive you but, no, the stories I've read and the words [are not true]."

He admitted to having extramarital affairs that to doing things "that I'm not at all proud of".

"I think I've got a bit to apologise to, to my family and also to the people that supported Burke's Backyard," he said.

"I'm a perfectionist that drove people pretty hard and … there's a lot of people who don't like me and they can't all be wrong.

"Towards the end [of Burke's Backyard's 18-year run] I don't think I was a very good person … I was like a bear with a sore head and I do apologise for that.

"I have looked in the mirror and there's a lot I don't like, but that's up to the people of Australia now to decide: can they forgive me or not?"

Burke also explained some of his actions by claiming he had Asperger's, a form of autism that makes social interactions difficult.

"I haven't been medically diagnosed, but I've worked it out that that's what I've got," he said.

"It's a terrible failing. I can look in a lens (but) I have real difficulty looking anyone in the eye … I miss all their body language often, the subtle signs that people give to you like 'Back off, that's enough'. I don't see that."

Topics:  don burke editors picks general-seniors-news

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