DAN WOOTTON: I told ITV about Phillip Schofield’s affair with his young colleague in 2019 and urged them to investigate but they dismissed it as ‘malicious gossip’. What followed looks like nothing short of a cover-up
- Phillip Schofield revealed yesterday he had an affair with a young ITV colleague
- The channel has since issued two statements, blasting its ex-presenter as a liar
I very clearly remember the critical phone conversation.
It was November 2019 and I had recently left ITV Daytime after a decade working as the showbiz presenter on the Lorraine show.
My departure from the channel was complicated.
Having been offered a new contract for the next 12 months, it had been made clear by the broadcaster’s top executives that there were two conditions attached, which I wasn’t prepared to accept.
First: Any form of reporting on the then developing Phillip Schofield scandal will get you immediately taken off air (he’d already tried to have me sacked multiple times, by this point).
DAN WOOTTON: An ITV spokeswoman ended up dismissing my 2019 story about Phillip Schofield, saying: ‘It’s deeply disappointing and unfair for Phillip to be the target of this sort of malicious gossip.’ Pictured: The former ITV presenter is seen May 21
Pictured: Dan Wootton is seen presenting on ITV’s Lorraine, where he worked as the showbiz presenter before leaving the channel in 2019
Second: I would have to stop any negative commentary about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Again, that was a non-negotiable for me, given within two months I would break the story of Megxit and all the ramifications that followed for the Royal Family.
I told ITV’s embattled head of daytime Emma Gormley to stick her derisory offer, walked out of their soulless offices at a business park near the iconic TV Centre studios in London’s White City, and continued to report on the growing civil war at This Morning because that was the right thing to do.
At that time, there was an open revolt amongst ITV Daytime talent and producers that Schofield’s young male colleague and lover, who was more than 30 years his junior, had been moved from This Morning after their relationship soured to work on Loose Women.
Like almost everyone who worked on ITV Daytime, I knew the colleague pretty well – he had turned from a happy go lucky and ambitious lad, who wanted to become a TV presenter, to someone who was clearly troubled by the pressures of the extraordinary circumstance with which he had unfairly found himself.
I spoke to a number of the Loose Women presenters personally who were livid and worried that they were having to deal with the very real fallout of Phillip’s mixed up professional and personal life.
At least one of the stars had made a formal complaint to management.
Another told me: ‘We shouldn’t be having to deal with Phillip’s messed up situation. We love (the young worker) but he’s very troubled now. What if he can’t cope?’
The Loose Women ructions coincided with the first sign of tension between Phillip and Holly Willoughby, who had fallen out at the time but went on to patch up their working relationship.
Which brings me to the critical call with ITV’s Group Corporate Affairs and Communications Director Paul Moore – the right-hand man to uber woke chief executive Carolyn McCall who she brought with her from Easyjet in 2018.
I was executive editor of The Sun at that point and had spoken to eight household name ITV stars who were raising concerns about Phillip’s ‘toxic’ behaviour, specifically the inappropriate relationship with the man.
Surely, at the very least, I pushed Moore, ITV has a duty to investigate the information we were presenting to him? What harm is there in establishing the facts to ensure duty of care to their young staff member?
But he made it clear the broadcaster had no intention of doing so.
DAN WOOTTON: The Loose Women ructions coincided with the first sign of tension between Phillip and Holly Willoughby (pictured presenting together February 2023), who had fallen out at the time but went on to patch up their working relationship
Pictured: Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby are seen on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, May 18
Indeed, an ITV spokeswoman ended up dismissing my 2019 story, saying: ‘It’s deeply disappointing and unfair for Phillip to be the target of this sort of malicious gossip.
‘Phillip is a much respected broadcaster and colleague and this is absolutely not a description of This Morning that we recognise.’
As we know now, this was not ‘malicious gossip’; Phillip has now admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with the young colleague, behind his wife’s back, who he first met as a young teen.
In a damage control statement today, ITV management claim they first learned of the rumours in 2020, stating: ‘ITV can confirm that when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in early 2020 ITV investigated.
‘Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.
‘In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour.
‘Phillip’s statement yesterday reveals that he lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.’
But, as I’ve just outlined, the ‘rumours’ were known months earlier because they were far more than ‘rumours’; the man had become a non-negotiable part of Phillip’s life, with ITV cars ferrying him from the TV studios to the presenter’s apartment.
Given the legal constraints on freedom of the press in the UK, I was only able to write a pale imitation of the real story, which read: ‘We have learned Phillip’s PA and personal runner — a male in his twenties — left This Morning to work on Loose Women, despite a previous close friendship with him. ITV say he was promoted.’
I quoted a source on the show who said: ‘It was odd because they were so close and then he up and went to Loose Women and they didn’t seem to be talking much anymore.’
Regardless, a large number of ITV’s biggest stars reached out to express their horror that their channel seemed to be engaging in a cover-up, possibly designed to protect one of their biggest stars from an uncomfortable revelation.
It was surprising that McCall – a CEO who prides herself on being uber woke and happily axed the likes of Piers Morgan, Jeremy Kyle, Jeremy Clarkson, Carol McGiffin and Eamonn Holmes because they didn’t prescribe to her left-wing ideology – wasn’t prepared to at least investigate a growing scandal.
But the story of Phillip and his lover wasn’t going away.
Chief Executive Carolyn McCall (pictured) and her PR sidekick Paul Moore who she brought with her from Easyjet in 2018 were running ITV at the time of Schofield’s affair
At the National Television Awards on January 28, 2020, there was an altercation between the man and both Phillip and Holly separately, witnessed by senior ITV staff in attendance, including the high powered director of television Kevin Lygo.
I also spoke to the colleague that night and was incredibly concerned about how badly the growing scandal had impacted both his mental and physical health.
Contrary to incorrect and malicious internet rumours, I never once suggested that the solution was outing Phillip Schofield, something the axed presenter confirmed in his bombshell statement to the Daily Mail last night, saying: ‘Nobody ‘forced’ me out.’
However, Phillip clearly knew the story wasn’t going away so just a week later made his decision to come out on the This Morning sofa, drawing Holly, Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford into the announcement.
Eamonn said last night he deeply regrets being part of that charade, writing on Twitter: ‘Ruth and I (were) deceived and lied to. One day I will tell the story. We had no issue with him being gay, only support. What transpired took us for fools. The man told us complete lies and we unfortunately believed him.’
Within weeks, the tension between Phillip and Holly on the ITV sofa was overshadowed by the outbreak of Covid-19.
But life didn’t get easier for the poor young man, whose dreams had been dashed as he soon left ITV under a cloud.
What happens to his career now that photos of him meeting Phillip at drama school are widely circulated on the internet?
I feel deeply sorry for him, but know he is surrounded by good people personally and professionally trying to protect him from this storm
In fairness to Phillip, he has finally told the truth and admitted his failings in lying to the media for many years, while falling on his sword at ITV.
Holly Willoughby held Schofield’s hand as he announced he was gay in February 2020
But there remains a host of deeply uncomfortable questions for ITV executives about whether they prioritised protecting the reputation of one of their most bankable stars rather than doing what’s right.
Not to mention their treatment of their young employee and whether they actively covered up an abuse of power.
Staff, both on and off screen, at ITV are utterly furious with management for putting the channel’s reputation at risk.
Given Carolyn McCall’s propensity for dispensing with stars for the slightest political indiscretion, it’s hard to see how she can survive this very real scandal on her watch.
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