|Footage from Channel Nine Network shows Sydney radio presenters Michael Christian (above) and Mel Greig during the interview. (AFP)
Sydney, Dec. 10: The two Australian radio hosts behind the prank call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospital have made a tearful apology, saying they were “gutted” over the death of the nurse who took their call.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the death on Friday of Jacintha Saldanha, 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian said they were “shattered, gutted, heartbroken”.
Both broke into tears while describing their responses to the news that Saldanha, a mother of two, had died. Greig said it was “the worst phone call I have had in my life”.
“I remember my first question was, ‘Was she a mother?’” she told Channel Nine Network. “I am very sorry and saddened for the family. I can’t imagine what they are going through.... I am just so devastated for them. I am really feeling for them. It was never meant to go that far. This wasn’t meant to happen.”
Describing his response, Christian said he was “shattered, gutted, heartbroken”.
“No harm was intended on Jacintha or the other nurse or Kate or Prince William or anyone,” he said. “It was an incredibly tragic turn of events that no one could have predicted and for the part that we have played we are incredibly sorry.”
Greig said she would like to apologise personally to Saldanha’s family but it was still too soon.
“We are thinking of you,” she said. “If we could call you, if we played any involvement in her death then we are very sorry for that.”
The pair, who have received counselling over the weekend, gave separate pre-recorded interviews on Monday to two commercial television current affairs programmes.
The hosts were reportedly not paid. A third interview was scheduled but later cancelled because the pair were said to be too unwell.
Christian told Channel Nine: “Naturally, we are shattered. We are people too... I am still trying to make sense of it all.”
Greig said: “There’s not a minute that goes by where we don’t think about her family and what they must be going through and the thought we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.
“I’ve thought about this a million times in my head and I’ve wanted to just reach out to them (Saldanha’s family) and just give them a big hug and say ‘sorry’. I hope they’re OK, I really do.”
The two hosts insisted that they themselves were supposed to be the butt of the prank and they had not tried to achieve a “scoop”.
“The joke 100 per cent was on us,” Christian said. “The idea was never ‘let’s call up and get through to Kate or speak to a nurse’. The joke was (that) our accents are horrible, they don’t sound anything like they are meant to be. There was no malice. It was not to dig.”
Greig added: “The entertainment value was in us. It was meant to be us being silly and getting hung up on. We wanted to be hung up on. We thought a hundred people before us would’ve tried it, we thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital.”
Asked how the call originated, Christian said: “It was just the team sitting down before the show — just had the idea for just a simple harmless phone call. That when we thought about making a call, it was going to go for 30 seconds, we were going to be hung up on, and that was it.
“These prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country around the world and they have been for a long time and no one could’ve imagined this to happen.”
The pair said they did not know the process for vetting calls which was done by “people far above us”.
“We are not privy to what happens,” said Christian. “It (the recording) is passed on and we are told either yay or nay.”
The station has taken the two hosts off the air and suspended all advertising. The share price of Southern Cross Media, the owner of the station, plummeted today, dropping almost 6 per cent.
Asked whether prank calls should be banned, Greig said she had not considered her future career.
“I don’t want to think about going on air, to be honest,” she said. “We are sorry for the family — that they’re going through this. I hope they get through this,” she added.
A person who identified herself as a “relative” said from Saldanha’s maternal home in Mangalore: “We are aware of the apologies by the DJs. There is nothing to say as we have lost a loved one.”