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Storm breaks over attack on Irwin

Story Highlights

• Angry reaction to criticism of Irwin by feminist Greer
• Steve Irwin's father does not want state funeral
• Colleagues want videotape of Irwin's death destroyed

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Comments by academic Germaine Greer on the death of wildlife TV star Steve Irwin have triggered a storm of anger with the Australian author criticized for being "insensitive" and "elitist."

Greer, best known for her feminist book "The Female Eunuch", said Wednesday Irwin was an "embarrassment" and a "self-deluded animal torturer."

Irwin, who gained international fame for his "Crocodile Hunter" TV series, was killed Monday by a stingray barb while filming a wildlife documentary.

Speaking on Australian TV Channel Nine's "A Current Affair" news program Wednesday, Greer described those who mourned Irwin's passing as "idiots" and said possibly millions of Australians were embarrassed by him.

Greer said Irwin had not treated animals with the respect they deserved.

"He would tell you how dangerous they were and he would proceed to intrude on their space and humiliate (them) really -- treat them with massive insensitivity," she said. "It's no surprise he came to grief."

Greer's views, first aired in Britain's Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, have drawn a sharp response in Australia from politicians and commentators. (TIME.com: In defense of Steve Irwinexternal link)

Queensland state leader Peter Beattie told Greer to "back off" and labeled her comments "stupid" and "insensitive."

"Germaine Greer is just wrong and I just can't imagine anyone being more insensitive and, frankly, stupid," he said Thursday.

"This argument is just extreme radical rubbish from Germaine Greer and it couldn't come at a more insensitive time.

"Any suggestion that he (Irwin) mistreated animals is just rubbish ... he educated a generation."

Author John Birmingham, writing in The Australian newspaper Thursday, called Greer's comments "a poisonous discharge of bile" which encapsulated the views of a "whole class of Australian sophisticates" who felt uncomfortable with Irwin's global celebrity.

Greer is a frequent critic of personalities like British soccer star David Beckham and social trends like reality television, although she herself appeared briefly in Britain's Celebrity Big Brother series.

In other news, Irwin's father said his son's funeral would be held privately within seven days, The Associated Press reports.

He confirmed that the family had declined a state funeral for the television star.

In a short statement to media at the family's Australia Zoo reptile park, Bob Irwin said his son's funeral would be private at an undisclosed location, and that a public memorial service would be held within two weeks.

"He wants to be remembered as an ordinary bloke," Irwin said earlier. (Watch Irwin's father describe his son -- 2:24)

Bob Irwin told reporters Wednesday his son and he were extremely close.

"Steve and I weren't like father and son, we never were," Irwin said.

"We were good mates. I'll remember Steve as my best mate ever," he said.

Meanwhile, colleagues of Irwin said they wanted video footage destroyed of the star showing him pulling a deadly stingray barb from his chest just before he died on Monday.

The host of Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" was filming scenes for a show intended for children when he was attacked.

Irwin's manager and close friend John Stainton told CNN's Larry King he would not want the tape released. "It should be destroyed," he said Tuesday.

The tape is in police custody, according to Stainton.

Stainton told CNN he believed Irwin was dead by the time he was brought from the water, despite efforts by those on his boat to keep him alive while racing to an island to meet a medical helicopter.

"In my heart, I figure -- I think he was dead when he was in the rubber ducky," Stainton told King. "I don't think he was alive." (Watch excerpts from the show -- 4:46)

A rubber ducky is a small inflatable boat, which was used to transport Irwin back to his research vessel, CrocOne. Efforts to resuscitate Irwin proved futile.

Stingray discussions

Irwin, the Australian naturalist and wildlife crusader who won fame for his TV show "The Crocodile Hunter," had been working on a documentary -- ironically, on the ocean's deadliest animals when the accident occurred.

Bad weather had made it impossible to proceed with a planned taping for the Animal Planet channel, so Irwin chose Monday to shoot "a couple of soft stories for a new TV show we're doing," Stainton told CNN when the news broke.

"He and the underwater cameraman went out to do some pieces on the reef and coral and stuff good for the kids' show and, unfortunately, he came out over the top of a stingray that was buried in the sand and the barb went up and hit him in the chest," Stainton said Monday.

"He was as good on the water as he was on land," Stainton recalled Tuesday. "He was comfortable anywhere there was wildlife. He'd been diving 10, 15 years ... I never thought he'd take a hit from a stingray. He was very used to them."

Only the day before, he, Irwin and a doctor on board had discussed stingrays and the effects of their barbs, Stainton said. Stingrays, however, were not to be included in the "dangerous animals" documentary. (Watch how a stingray strikes -- 2:35 )

Stainton said he had to watch the tape in order to verify what was on it. "It was a hard experience," he said.

Irwin's body was brought from Cairns to his hometown of Beerwah in southeast Queensland on Tuesday. Stainton said he accompanied it on the six-hour flight. A date has not been set for the funeral, he said.

Irwin, who was director of the family's Australia Zoo in Queensland, is survived by his American-born wife, Terri, and their two children, Bindi Sue, 8, and Robert, 3. Asked how Terri Irwin was doing, Stainton said, "A lot worse than me."

When family members saw Irwin's casket, he said, "It was like a full stop ... you think it's a dream and it's not happening, but it is, and it has and it's done."

Out of respect for Irwin's family, Australia's quarantine service is withdrawing all TV advertising that features Irwin promoting the importance of Australian quarantine measures.

CNN's Grant Holloway and John Vause contributed to this report.


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Outspoken writer Germaine Greer is no stranger to controversy.

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