Comedian Hannah Gadsby has slammed celebrity gardener Don Burke for blaming his past behaviour on autism.
The 70-year-old is facing dozens of accusations of harassment and inappropriate behaviour during his two decades hosting “Burke’s Backyard”.
Burke denied the allegations in an interview with A Current Affair earlier this week, but at one point said he had diagnosed himself with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum.
“I missed the body language and the subtle signs that people give you. I don’t see that,” Mr Burke said on the program.
“I suffer from a terrible problem with that. Not seeing. No-one can understand how you can’t see it, but you don’t.
“I can look in the lens, but I have real difficulty looking anyone in the eye.”
But hearing Burke’s apparent excuse didn’t sit well with Gadsby.
In a lengthy Facebook post, she wrote that she was recently diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum herself and criticised Burke’s “destructive” deflection.
“If you subscribe to the notion that people on the spectrum are incapable of experiencing empathy then you should know that the very people you accuse of biological callousness find it very painful to be constantly told they’re incapable of caring,” she wrote.
Gadsby said she has “chosen to believe that Don Burke genuinely believes he has Asperger’s, because the way somebody views themselves is very important if you want to understand them.”
She compared Burke’s comments with actor Kevin Spacey’s ill-timed coming out announcement.
“If there’s one thing that a spectrum brain is great at, it is identifying patterns,” she wrote.
“Let me show you a fascinating pattern that I have noticed recently: Don Burke told us he had Asperger’s under the very same circumstances that Kevin Spacey came out of the closet, which is exactly the same kind of moment that Harvey Weinstein reframed himself as sex addict, and when Louis C.K. chose to acknowledge his peculiar special needs clause.
“I predict that this pattern will continue every time a powerful person is publicly asked to justify unjustifiable behaviour.
“Given that the excuses vary so widely, but the timing and the behaviour are essentially the same, it is easy to know it doesn’t really matter how they dress it, what really matters is the moment they choose to suddenly position themselves as a minority.
“Although they’ve clearly failed to identify why they abused their power so horrifically in the same moment they refuse to apologize, what they do manage show us is that they genuinely don’t understand how or why their actions are so unacceptable.
“They did this by choosing to identify their ‘problems’ with the very same, vulnerable minorities who are most at risk of falling victim to very crimes they are accused of.”
Gadsby said that anyone in a position of power and privilege must be held ultimately responsible for their actions.
“Even if you can position yourself as a victim it does not negate the position the world has put you in, and you are ultimately responsible for how you use that power,” she wrote.
“Don Burke and I might have an industry and even a spectrum in common, but I doubt he was ever sexually assaulted when he was a homeless queer woman.
“I’m just going to give this problem the name it deserves: straight white man abusing privilege and the culture of shame and silence supporting it.”
Read Hannah’s full Facebook post below: