SYDNEY, Australia They expected a hang-up and a few laughs. Instead, the Australian DJs behind a hoax phone call to the U.K. hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was treated were in tears 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 in a storm of worldwide public anger after Friday’s death, still unexplained, of the first nurse to whom they spoke.
“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.”
She and co-host Michael Christian spoke publicly about the prank for the first time in the televised interview. A separate interview on rival show Today Tonight also aired Monday.
Both DJs apologized for the hoax and broke down in tears when asked about the moment they learned that the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, was dead. But neither described having reservations before the hoax tape was broadcast; they said higher-ups had made the decision to air it.
“We didn’t have that discussion,” Greig said.
Southern Cross Austereo, the parent company of 2DayFM, released a statement Monday saying Greig and Christian’s show had been terminated and there would be a company-wide suspension of prank calls. The DJs themselves remain suspended.