The polarising co-host of Seven’s Sunrise Samantha Armytage has quit the top rating breakfast show before the end of her contract, citing the need for “peace and calm”.
After eight years in the high-profile role with co-host David Koch, Armytage said through tears that she needed a break and would decide her future after a long rest.
“As many of you know, my personal life the last six months has been very bittersweet,” she said on the program.
“Some bits have been very happy and some bits have been very, very sad and I want to step out of this public world for a while, take some time and calm things down.”
Her mother Libby Armytage died at the age of 68 last year from an autoimmune disease.
Armytage was a magnet for attention from the tabloid press, and in recent years became increasingly outspoken on political issues earning her a raft of new critics.
A popular figure with viewers, her tenure was marred by a much criticised segment in 2018 about the removal of Indigenous children from their families.
Armytage wrongly said abused Indigenous children “can only be placed with relatives or other Indigenous families”, and described a “huge move to leave Aboriginal children where they are even if they’re being neglected in their own families”.
A guest, Prue MacSween, said: “Just like the first stolen generation where a lot of children were taken because it was for their wellbeing, we need to do it again perhaps.”
The program was found by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to have breached broadcasting standards for accuracy and provoked serious contempt on the basis of race over the segment.
Channel Seven later settled a defamation claim arising from the segment with members of the Yirrkala Aboriginal community over the use of images of adults from Yirrkala in the backdrop.
Armytage was outspoken about the way women were treated in the media and won plaudits for hitting back. She frequently took on the Daily Mail and women’s magazines when they made up stories or invaded her privacy and won an apology from the Mail for an infamous “granny panties” story.
The Daily Mail headline alongside photographs of Armytage getting into her car in a casual sundress said: “Sunrise host Sam Armytage dares to bare with granny panties showing a visible line as she steps out in Sydney.”
The story said “the TV personality’s granny panties showed through the garment with a clearly visible line”. After she threatened to sue the references to granny panties were removed.
Armytage said she had always been “brave and fearless in my career” and she needed to take a break and find some peace and calm.
“I go out of this job at a time of my own choosing and on top of the ratings, which not many people on television can say they do,” she said in a statement.
“I cannot thank you all enough for having me in your lounge rooms all these years.”
Just last week she created a stir when she accused Kevin Rudd of ignoring her when the former prime minister said “thank you Kochie” after an interview with the duo.
Koch, who also had a successful partnership with Armytage’s predecessor, Melissa Doyle, said Armytage had been “the rock” of the program.
Doyle quit in 2013 after 14 years of “Mel and Kochie” and far fewer controversies than her successor.
“Sam’s humour, work ethic and team first values have been an inspiration to us all,” Koch said. “But now it’s time for Sam to put herself and Rich first and we couldn’t be happier for, or more supportive of, them both.”
But Armytage appears to have become disenchanted with public life, telling News Corp earlier this month that TV is “full of sociopaths and narcissists”.