Autism Awareness Australia has slammed under-siege TV presenter Don Burke for claiming that undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome was to blame for his alleged sexual misconduct.
In an interview on the Nine Network on Monday night, Burke claimed that his Asperger's meant he was incapable of reading body language or signals and was unaware if he had gone too far with people.
Autism Awareness Australia tweeted in response that they were "sickened" by Burke's "excuse of undiagnosed Aspergers as a reason for his appalling behaviour. What kind of human sinks this low?"
Director and CEO of Autism Awareness Australia Nicole Rogerson told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that Burke's use of undiagnosed Aspergers as a reason for his behaviour was "ridiculous".
"Incredibly hurtful to those people on the autism spectrum and their families because anybody who knows anybody on the autism spectrum would know that there is nothing about having Asperger's or autism that makes you more or less likely to be a sexual predator, anymore than having red hair makes you more likely," Ms Rogerson told Fairfax.
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"The only reason I can think of is he is trying to use the idea that people with Asperger's sometimes don't read social cues very well."
In his interview on A Current Affair, Burke claimed he "was an Asperger's person and I have a lot of other failings that are genetic".
"I missed the body language and the subtle signs that people give you," he said.
"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."
Burke has been described by former colleagues as a "psychotic bully" and a "sexual predator" who harassed female employees during his successful run with gardening show Burke's Backyard in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Former colleagues have claimed he indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees.
It's believed more than 50 women have been interviewed and made serious allegations about his actions.
Burke strenuously denied the sexual harassment allegations in his interview on Nine, only conceding that he could be a tough boss and had extramarital affairs.
He claimed the misconduct allegations were a "witch-hunt" in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal rocking Hollywood and claimed several ex-employees held "grudges" against him.
In a statement released on Monday Burke described himself as "a classic sitting duck" because he ran production company behind Burke's Backyard, meaning he had fired some employees during its long and successful run.
"The bitter irony is that I have had a lifelong opposition to sexism and misogyny. Burke's Backyard was a lone bastion of anti-misogyny from its inception in 1987," his statement said.