TV personality felled by #MeToo cried "witch hunt" before going down

He was accused of relatively "mild" offences: sending explicit text messages and driving by someone's house. As more women began to testify, it became clear that these were symptoms of systematic and predatory behavior.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
TV personality felled by #MeToo cried "witch hunt" before going down - NewsMavens
Bart De Pauw. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Belgium's television channels decided they will no longer work with the very popular and talented Bart De Pauw (49) after allegations of sexual harassment emerged. De Pauw himself broke the news with an emotional Youtube video in which he described himself as a victim of unfair accusations.

For more than 30 years -- he was 17 when he started acting and writing shows -- De Pauw was the face of Flemish television's most popular shows. The announcement shocked and divided Belgium. Why?

One: His popularity. De Pauw is an audience favorite.

Two: he was accused of relatively "mild" offences: sending explicit text messages and driving by someone's house. There was no physical intimidation. (Later, as more women began to testify, it became clear that these were symptoms of systematic and predatory behavior, but on the first day of the scandal, De Pauw presented his transgressions as relatively harmless).

Three: The victims are unknown and testified anonymously.

Four: Though there was no legal complaint, the Flemish public broadcast wanted to set an example. Their official explanation for discontinuing his contract was 'insufficient trust'.

People immediately began to defend De Pauw and criticize the broadcaster. The message of the main Flemish public broadcaster, VRT, was vague, and De Pauw was insisting on his harmlessness, if not innocence. He confessed to sending "flirty messages", "a sin everybody can commit when drunk. I can’t even check whether the allegation are true or not", he says.

"I haven’t even been given the change to defend myself. The VRT has made it clear that this isn’t about innocence or guilt. To them, the risk of a possible controversy is enough to bring 30 years of collaboration to an end."

That first day of scandal was incredibly divisive, opening the door to a plethora of male complaints about witch hunts. But the following days revealed that De Pauw's behavior was not innocent at all. 

Details from the story:

  • Flemish public broadcaster VRT fired presenter, actor and producer Bart De Pauw after allegations of sexual harassment emerged.
  • The VRT’s communication manager stated that, after having received several reports of inappropriate behavior, there was 'insufficient trust' to carry on working with De Pauw. It turned out that his aggressive flirting had escalated into stalking.
  • In a video message, De Pauw said that someone "at the VRT told me that this is not about sexual assault, but mainly about flirty text messages. I haven't even been given the change to defend myself", he complained.
  • Other tv-stars and female employees at his production company started to defend him saying we have become too severe and too prudish, and are 'searching too hard for a Belgian Weinstein while the facts are not comparable at all'. On the other side, there were the supporters of the victims, polarizing the public discourse.
  • Three days after his emotional video statement, Bart De Pauw decided to pull back from the public eye.

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