Talkradio presenter James Whale is back on the air after he was suspended over an interview with an alleged sex assault victim that was said by the station to have “completely lacked sensitivity”.
Whale has since apologised to the phone-in guest, who had called to take part in a discussion about the #MeToo movement and claimed she had been sexually assaulted in a taxi earlier this year.
He was seen on an official video stream of the studio to mouth the words “orally raped?” after they were said by the guest, laugh and shake his head.
During the interview, Whale told the woman she should have continued with a police complaint against her alleged attacker and challenged her over her claim that CCTV was routinely deleted.
Whale also asked why she had not taken the taxi’s licence number, later adding: “Are you not concerned that perhaps unless you did go further with this then this brute could actually do it to other women, and probably will?”
The presenter was given a week’s suspension, but returned last week to the evening radio slot following an internal investigation by the station, part of the Wireless Group owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK.
Whale began his return show on 13 August by apologising directly to the woman who had complained.
“I have to admit that I have been absolutely devastated that anybody, anyone could actually think that I would act insensitively towards somebody who has been the victim of any kind of sexual assault, any kind of assault at all,” he said.
“I am very sorry that you felt that this programme, and me in particular, did not respond to your story as sympathetically as you expected and, to be quite honest, it deserved to be treated, and I had no idea that it came across in that way.”
He said: “I had never heard of the term ‘oral rape’ and as I looked around in the studio and tried to get some kind of idea as to what it was, there may well have been confusion. Maybe the tone of my voice didn’t sound as sympathetic as it should.”
Added Whale: “I would never ever ever have wanted to upset anybody in that situation. And I’ve seen quite a lot of the social media and some of the keyboard warriors and what they’ve had to say but I want only to say to you [woman’s name] that I am absolutely devastated that it should have upset you like that, and I’m very sorry.”
A spokesperson for News UK declined to comment further.
In its statement on 3 August announcing Whale’s suspension, Talkradio said the interview had been “conducted in a manner that did not reflect the values of the station and completely lacked sensitivity when she discussed her personal story”.
“This style of broadcasting is not something that Talkradio supports or encourages, and we have taken the decision to suspend James Whale pending a full investigation,” the station said.
“This incident saw regrettable errors made by both the production and presenting teams and we are taking measures to ensure that they are not repeated again.”
Former MP George Galloway, who normally presents the same 7pm to 10pm slot on a Friday, filled in for Whale during is suspension.
Ofcom fined the station over Whale’s comments, which it found had breached the Ofcom code on political impartiality.
He was hired by Talkradio in 2016, and said at the time he was “delighted” Wireless Group was “willing to take the risk of inviting me back into the family”.