Australian DJs apologize for royal hoax call
In this image made off video footage recorded Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 and aired later in the day in "A Current Affair" program by Australia's Channel Nine, Australian radio DJs Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig appear during an interview with the TV station. The two managed to impersonate Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles and received confidential information about the Duchess of Cambridge's medical condition, which was broadcast on-air. The controversial prank took a dark twist three days later with the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, who was duped by the DJs despite their Australian accents. (AP Photo/Channel Nine) AUSTRALIA OUT, TV OUT, NO SALES, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
SYDNEY (AP) — They say they expected a hang-up and a few laughs. Instead, the Australian DJs behind a hoax phone call to the London hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated were deeply apologetic Monday as they described how their joke ended up going too far.
The phone call — in which they impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles — went through, and their station broadcast and even trumpeted the confidential information received. Whatever pride there had been over the hoax was obliterated by worldwide public outrage after Friday's death of Jacintha Saldanha, the first nurse they talked to.
"There's not a minute that goes by that we don't think about her family and what they must be going through," 2DayFM radio host Mel Greig told Australia's "A Current Affair," her voice shaking. "And the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching."
Police have not disclosed the cause of Saldanha's death, but many have assumed it was related to the stress from the call. An autopsy is being held Tuesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron said at a luncheon Monday that "the suicide of this nurse, who worked incredibly hard and obviously was incredibly dedicated ... is an absolute tragedy."
His office later said Cameron's comment was not an official acknowledgment that the death was a suicide.
This undated hand out photo provided by the Metropolitan Police shows Jacintha Saldanha. British police say that a nurse who was found dead days after she took a hoax call about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was originally from India. Scotland Yard said Saturday that 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha, who was found dead on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 had lived in Bristol in southwestern England for nine years. Saldanha worked at the London hospital where Prince William's wife, Kate, was being treated for acute morning sickness. The nurse was duped by a prank call performed by two Australian DJs, who pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to ask about Kate's condition. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Police
Greig and co-host Michael Christian spoke publicly about the prank for the first time in the televised interview. Another interview on rival show "Today Tonight" also aired Monday.
The hoax has sparked broad outrage, with the hosts receiving death threats and demands they be fired.
The radio station's owner said Greig and Christian were receiving psychological counseling to deal with the tragedy. A British lawmaker said he wished that much was being done for Saldanha's grieving family.
"They are devastated by what has happened," said Labour legislator Keith Vaz, who has visited Saldanha's husband and two children at their home in Bristol, southwest England.
"They want the facts to be established so that they can effectively grieve," Vaz said. "What is needed, clearly, is an inquiry by the hospital into how this tragic case happened."
Both DJs apologized for the hoax and cried when asked about the moment they learned that the Saldanha was dead. But neither described having reservations before the hoax tape was broadcast; they said higher-ups at the station had made the decision to air it.