Former TVNZ host Kamahl Santamaria breaks his silence on new podcast

  • 04/06/2023
Kamahl Santamaria.
Kamahl Santamaria. Photo credit: TVNZ

Disgraced former TVNZ broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria has broken his silence on his new podcast, downplaying the multiple accusations of sexual harassment made against him but also admitting he got things "wrong". 

Santamaria uploaded a trailer last month for the podcast entitled RE:Balance, in which he references the resignation and the multiple accusations of sexual harassment made against him regarding his time working at Al Jazeera in Qatar.

Now, the first episode of Santamaria's podcast has been released on Sunday, where he talked about the allegations and the effect they've had on his mental health.  

"It is very much informed and directed by my own experience over the past year, and yes I will be using it to set some records straight," he told listeners in the first episode of his podcast, RE: Balance.

"Because in the end, I trust myself to tell my story."

Santamaria resigned from his role as TVNZ Breakfast presenter in May 2022, just 32 days after he started. 

The resignation came after multiple allegations were made about him regarding inappropriate conduct towards female staff at both TVNZ and his former employer Al Jazeera.

He said on the podcast he's been a journalist for 25 years but for the last year, he's had to live with being labelled "a disgraced journalist". 

"That's not a pleasant title to live with but that's how it's been ever since my departure from TVNZ in May of last year," he said.

Following his resignation, he said there was a report and "unsubstantiated allegation of inappropriate behaviour" followed by more allegations from his time at Al Jazeera.

He told the podcast there is "a lot" of lies and missing context out there about him but admitted there were "truths" out there. 

He said what has happened has forced him to stop and look back on his behaviour and admitted there were times he just got it wrong. 

"I am deeply sorry for that and for the effect I have now learned that it had on others," he said.

But it also prompted him to think about the work environments he worked in. 

"What I failed to recognise was particularly in a post 'Me Too' world, there is just no place for over friendly, over-familiar, flirtatious, tactile behaviour or banter in the workplace no matter how friendly that workplace is or how prevalent that behaviour might be," Santamaria said.

"I've made mistakes but I hope my past doesn't define who I am in the future."

The allegations surrounding Santamaria's time at Al Jazeera include accounts of him kissing colleagues without consent, touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable and sending inappropriate messages.

In May, a former colleague of Santamaria's at Al Jazeera alleged he tried to kiss her without consent and shared an inappropriate email she said he sent her.

In the email, which was seen by Newshub, Santamaria told his former co-worker: "There is no more attractive outfit on a woman than the white blouse/black skirt combo and YOU are making it work, baby."

"Between you and [another female colleague], I may just combust!" 

The email's subject line was, "At the risk of embarrassing you", and it ended with "xxx". The message was sent in conjunction with several instances of unwanted physical advances in the workplace, its recipient said.

Santamaria has never directly addressed the allegations about his actions for legal reasons but said he will once he's able to. 

He told the podcast he's been in hiding for a year "growing a beard, always wearing a cap", afraid to use his own name and that he is on medication.

Santamaria referred to a report about his visit to the National Business Review, which a journalist turned into a story. 

He told the podcast it was the "one time" he went in public to meet a friend at his office.

Santamaria said the journalist wrote about how uncomfortable he made people feel when he was introduced to others and by just shaking their hands and how they had no interest in working with him despite not going there for a job interview. 

"The whole thing was utterly ridiculous to the point now where I don't even shake people's hands anymore."

He also talked about how the allegations affected his mental health. He disclosed that at the beginning, he had been on heavy medication during the day and sedation at night, and the family had him on a round-the-clock suicide watch. 

"The fact that I am still here now is a testament to my family, who kept me alive when I didn't want to go on and they continue to do so," he said. 

He also told listeners, just because he's been silent since his resignation from TVNZ, doesn't mean it's an admission of guilt. 

"What I would say and this applies to much of which is out there is that people should be careful will associating silence with guilt. Conflating a lack of a public defence with an admission that everything out there is as it's been told or believing every accusation without scrutinising them and those making it," he said.

"The full story has definitely not been told, yet. The headline doesn't always match the story, and countering that is a big part of what I'm embarking on with The Balance."

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Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584