Controversial conservative commentator Andrew Bolt has issued a lengthy on-air apology to the victim at the centre of a private school pedophile scandal after he was slammed for describing the abuse as being “hit on”.
It came after the victim, Paris Street, said the comments made on Sky by Bolt and fellow conservative Gerard Henderson had “trivialised” the traumatic abuse by a St Kevin’s College teacher.
Bolt said he never meant to belittle or downplay the crime.
“I was so angry and so disappointed and I was thinking I should have defended, should have phrased it better, shouldn’t have used the word, the expression, hitting on,” he said on Sky on Thursday night.
“I never imagined that people would assume that perhaps I endorsed this or played it down or belittled it. It wasn’t my intention.”
He added: “This misrepresentation has just been ghastly, awful.
“I should’ve thought of Paris Street, the boy, how he might have heard it.
“I’m really sorry to you, Paris, I’m really sorry. I wish I thought about how you would take it and I regret it. I spend every hour since thinking about it and I hate what happened.”
Paris Street had been identified as the sex abuse victim in the St Kevin’s College scandal during a bombshell Four Corners report.
The offender, Peter Kehoe, was convicted of grooming when he was an athletics coach at the prestigious Melbourne school.
The night after the ABC report, Mr Bolt appeared to question the seriousness of Mr Kehoe’s crime.
He said Kehow had “hit on a boy, no sex occurred”.
Bolt also asked “how terrible was it really” that the school principal Stephen Russell wrote a character reference for Kehoe after his conviction.
Conservative commentator Gerard Henderson responded: “Well not at all, it was a terrible pile on against St Kevin’s, within the ABC tradition of attacking mainly Catholic institutions”.
Accepting Bolt’s assertion that “every action invites a reaction”, Mr Street asked that Bolt and Henderson check their facts, update their knowledge of what ‘grooming’ meant, and urged them to display greater sensitivity to victims of sexual abuse.
“To have what I was subjected to trivialised on Tuesday night, especially after it was mentioned (and this is assuming you have actually watched the entirety of the documentary), that I hoped telling my story would be the first step to moving on, is inconsiderate particularly when Gerard, you make the comment: “well of course we’re sympathetic to the victim”,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“If you displayed any sympathy towards me, you wouldn’t be minimising what was inflicted upon me.
“I was invited to jump into a 59 year old’s bed … The Facebook messages he sent me. I was fifteen. He was convicted of grooming me.”
“For your own knowledge, (it clearly needs enhancement), please refer to the relevant legislation of what grooming actually is …The offence of grooming concerns predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time.
“… This occurred alongside a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. I was a victim of child sexual abuse. St Kevin’s is an institution.
“Please refer to the findings of that royal commission because this might enhance your knowledge (and hopefully some understanding) of the pain and suffering that victims endure from not being supported.
“Just to make it clear: I returned to St Kevin’s because this is where my friends were, my twin brother was (and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried doing this) but settling into another school at the same time you’re giving evidence in a criminal trial as a victim of sexual abuse isn’t very easy.”
Mr Street also corrected Bolt on his assertion that convicted sex offender Kehoe was “later jailed”.
“If you paid particular attention to the documentary Andrew, (I think this is necessary especially when you intend to make comments on a sensitive topic), you will note that he wasn’t, in your own words ‘later jailed’,” the post reads.
“He was in fact, and as Louise mentioned in the documentary ‘sentenced to a community corrections order and placed on the sex offenders register for eight years’. Just a fact check.
“Now lastly Andrew, to say that ‘the school hadn’t had any complaints against him’ well, this might well be true.
“But if you had any level of understanding into the issue of child sexual abuse, it might be worth noting that disclosure of this type of information … on average … takes longer than 20 years for victims of child sexual abuse to disclose information.
“… Please, both of you, build some common decency and human courtesy into what is required in relation to sexual abuse. Especially if you are to make public comments about it.
“… How would you feel if someone acted the way Peter Kehoe did towards me, towards children of your own?
“Would your comments be any different?
“Reflect on the comments you have made and never make them again in the future. They make me sick.”