“It’s not about Robert the victim.”
And yet it was.
Three years after he was revealed as one of Australia’s most high profile serial sexual harassers, disgraced former Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle was back on his favourite radio show this morning, offering what was billed as a tearful apology to his victims.
The interview was spruiked by 3AW as Doyle finally breaking his silence.
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Presenter Neil Mitchell insisted he was not trying to drum up sympathy for Doyle by putting him back into the spotlight after all this time.
“They [the victims] are what matters in this,” he said.
But the interview went exactly where you’d expect: Doyle, audibly breaking down in tears, insisting he was not the victim, but then describing, with Mitchell’s assistance, how the allegations had affected him — all the while making references to alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression and even a new found spirituality.
And in case listeners were in any doubt about why the interview was being aired, Mitchell stressed that while the victims came first, there was a worthwhile discussion to be had about “whether the punishment fits the crime”.
The allegations against Doyle, Melbourne’s longest-serving mayor and a former leader of the state Liberal Party, were at the time some of the most serious to emerge from Australia’s Me Too movement. But three years after allegations were raised nothing much has happened to Doyle.
Also missing from the interview was any discussion about the ways in which Doyle had failed to cooperate with internal investigations into the allegations due to ill health.
Initially Doyle denied any inappropriate conduct and took a month’s leave when an internal investigation was called. At the time he said he would “cooperate fully to clear [his] name”, but later suggested allegations had been strategically released to the media, “which is a denial of natural justice and clearly damaging to my reputation”. The inquiry was then delayed as Doyle was reported as being “seriously ill”.
Mitchell insisted that the station had tried to seek out the voices of Doyle’s victims. But without them, the interview provided a one-sided opportunity for Doyle to draw a line under the allegations that ended his career.
It raises questions about the ethics of platforming Doyle, given what we now know about him, and raises questions about why, after so many years, he has decided to confront the allegations now.
It’s unclear whether he has offered an apology to the victims themselves privately. If not it makes the interview look even more like a PR stunt designed to drum up support for some kind of comeback or reinvention.
Crikey reached out to the women who made allegations against Doyle, hoping to get their response to the interview, but they were unavailable. With Doyle also billed to appear on A Current Affair tonight, it will no doubt be a difficult day for them.