12 Oct 2022

Ex-Breakfast host Kamahl Santamaria breaks silence with apology

1:16 pm on 12 October 2022

Kamahl Santamaria resigned after 31 days as Breakfast co-host. Photo: TVNZ

Former TVNZ Breakfast host Kamahl Santamaria has spoken for the first time since harassment claims were made against him by a female employee and said he "should have done better".

Santamaria abruptly resigned from TVNZ in April, after spending only 31 days on air as the new co-host on Breakfast.

He finally addressed the allegations and other claims today in a lengthy statement published today on his website.

"... as I am now finally speaking publicly, I want to apologise for any and all behaviour that may have made anyone feel uncomfortable at any time," he wrote.

"It has been mortifying to discover that my actions have caused people to feel uncomfortable around me.

"It has never been my intention to make people feel that way, and I offer my sincerest apologies to them and anyone else affected by my behaviour."

Controversy over the hiring process of Santamaria also prompted TVNZ's head of news Paul Yurisich to resign.

A review found that Santamaria was hired "without meaningful input from key individuals" who usually included key staff, including the chief executive, the general manager of news and current affairs and the chief people officer.

The former TV host said a lot has been said about him in the past few months.

"Some of it true, some missing crucial context, some outright lies and a rewriting of history - and according to an email I received on Monday evening, more is on the way," he said.

Santamaria said he has chosen not to comment, partly due to his own physical and mental wellbeing, and - in the case of his departure from TVNZ - for legal reasons.

In the statement, the former TV host said what he come to understand is that what he previously considered to be flirtatious, over-friendly, 'just a bit of banter', or simply within the bounds of acceptable in the prevailing newsroom culture was, in fact, not.

"As a journalist, and a person, I should have done better. I should have been better," he wrote.

"These past months have been humbling. I've had to confront a lot of uncomfortable things about myself, and my family has been forced to look at me in a different light."

Santamaria said he would make no further comment other than his statement.

"And would ask that members of the media stop coming to my home, and the homes of my family members," he said.

Santamaria also claimed that the BBC has contacted him over allegations from his time at Al Jazeera, where he worked previously to TVNZ, claiming they would be published after 72 hours if he gave no response.

Santamaria said the allegations were broad and with no particulars - making it difficult for anyone to respond to.

"So I will be as interested as anyone to read the article when it is published," he said

"The fact however that it is 'a story which includes several allegations' against me makes me wonder if the alleged behaviour of other people at Al Jazeera will finally be attributed to named individuals, or if I will remain the apparent face and name behind every alleged wrongdoing that happened there."

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