EXCLUSIVE As Holly Willoughby flies back into the storm after Phillip Schofield’s shocking interviews over his younger lover, this is why there’s NO WAY she’ll be forced out if her ITV bosses stay put
- READ MORE: JAN MOIR: Schofield wasted no time in playing the victim
Standing just inches from Holly Willoughby on stage at a glitzy television awards show in 2018 was a surprising addition to the line-up.
For as Holly accepted the National Television gong on behalf of This Morning for best daytime show, she wasn’t just surrounded by her fellow presenters, who included Ruth Langsford and Alison Hammond, and the programme’s editor Martin Frizell.
Also smiling among the top brass was a handsome but lowly twentysomething production assistant — as we now know, this was Phillip Schofield’s much younger lover at the time.
For such a junior member of staff to be included in this illustrious group certainly surprised his superiors, many of whom were not invited to celebrate the award with the great and good of the programme.
He was also, apparently, on the VIP river boat organised by ITV executive Emma Gormley, which had arranged to take the ‘talent’ up the Thames from the broadcaster’s HQ to the O2 Arena, where the awards were taking place.
Standing just inches from Holly Willoughby on stage at a glitzy television awards show in 2018 was a surprising addition to the line-up. Smiling among the top brass was a handsome but lowly twentysomething production assistant (pictured far left)
Portugal was where mother-of-three Holly spent the half-term break with her family this week
One former staff member tells me: ‘You should have seen him on there, quaffing champagne. It was a treat for the talent and very high-ups — not the junior production assistants.’
That the young man had been invited to such an exclusive gathering adds credence to the fact that surely Emma Gormley and others must have known that he and Schofield had some kind of close relationship.
In particular, there has been speculation in some quarters over what Holly knew. For in addition to these images, she and the young man were seen interacting outside the same event two years later.
Former co-stars Phillip and Holly also had a famously close relationship, even enjoying holidays together at their adjacent luxury villas on the Algarve.
Indeed, Portugal was where mother-of-three Holly spent the half-term break with her family this week. I understand she knew Phillip wouldn’t be there before she confirmed her travel plans.
And it was where she was said to be ‘gobsmacked’ on Thursday night when she discovered that Schofield had spoken out about his relationship with his much younger colleague just days before she returns to present This Morning on Monday.
In his first interviews since the scandal erupted, Schofield insisted Holly had been entirely ignorant of the affair.
‘Holly did not know [about the romance]. . . If anyone is in any way linking Holly to this, that is absolutely, wholly untrue,’ he insisted.
The young man had been invited to such an exclusive gathering adds credence to the fact that surely Emma Gormley (pictured) and others must have known that he and Schofield had some kind of close relationship
Former co-stars Phillip (pictured during his BBC interview) and Holly also had a famously close relationship, even enjoying holidays together at their adjacent luxury villas on the Algarve
Ms Willoughby was also said to be irritated that he had apologised to her so publicly.
He said: ‘I WhatsApped her on the day I put out the statement. I said: ‘You don’t have to reply, you probably can’t, but I want to say I’m desperately, desperately sorry.’ ‘
As Schofield predicted, Holly did not respond. While he claimed it was because she would have been advised not to, I’m told that it’s because she is deeply upset.
‘When Phil admitted the truth about his younger partner, Holly was shell-shocked,’ said a friend of the star’s.
‘She couldn’t believe it — it came from nowhere, and she had no idea it was about to happen. It took some time for her to register it, and, yes, it has hurt her.
‘Phil was someone she was close to for a very long time and the fact she had even asked him if anything had gone on, or was going on, and she was lied to was really hurtful for her.
‘She had always planned to go away for half term but she hoped it would be a happier time. It has been difficult.’
The broadcaster will be back in the UK to present This Morning on Monday
Things are also looking shaky for chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall (pictured) who has been called before the Government’s Select Committee later this month
It would be understandable if Holly felt conflicted because Schofield was the man who catapulted her to stardom when he insisted she replace Fern Britton in 2009.
I’m told that she has always felt indebted towards him for giving her the co-presenting role, though it is also said that he did so because he thought that he could control the dynamic. Never did he think she would become the more successful and popular one.
One friend of Holly’s at ITV said: ‘Can you imagine suspecting that the man who made you was having an affair with a much younger man who worked on your show, asking him, he lies and then you find this out? What was Holly supposed to do?’
Still, given the cloud that has fallen over ITV’s flagship show, Holly and her team will be working hard to ensure that the undisputed golden girl of television remains untarnished by the furore — as well as distanced from Schofield.
Indeed, Holly told me herself last year that she does not think any woman should be blamed for a man’s bad behaviour. Never have those words seemed more germane.
But as she prepares to return to This Morning for the first time since her fall out with Schofield became public, alongside former Big Brother winner Josie Gibson, she is facing calls to resign.
For the first time in her lucrative career, serious questions are being asked about Holly’s position.
Her former This Morning colleague Eamonn Holmes is leading the charge, amid accusations of a toxic working environment on the show.
Phillip Schofield poured his heart out to the BBC – and revealed he has texted Holly to say sorry, but she has not replied
Her former This Morning colleague Eamonn Holmes (pictured) is leading the charge, amid accusations of a toxic working environment on the show
READ MORE: JAN MOIR: Phillip Schofield wasted no time in playing the victim during his interview with the BBC but it’s his wife I feel sorry for
‘Not only should Phillip go, but Holly should follow him out the door,’ Eamonn said during a television interview with GB News presenter Dan Wootton this week.
Those close to Holly cite ‘total misogyny’ from the male talking heads ‘mansplaining’ her future.
In any case, whatever happens I can reveal her future looks secure.
Insiders at ITV insist that she is going nowhere because she is needed to ‘steady the ship, and keep calm and carry on’ — and be at the forefront of any rebrand of This Morning required as the show fights for survival.
And as Holly’s allies point out, ITV cannot sack her without clearing out its entire management team, which is coming under increasing pressure to admit whether they were aware of Schofield’s relationship.
Insiders say that there would be no way she would accept being told to go while head of daytime TV Emma Gormley stayed.
Things are also looking shaky for chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall who has been called before the Government’s Select Committee later this month. ITV director of television Kevin Lygo is also under pressure. And ITV chiefs have another problem — their rivals the BBC. They are only too aware that Auntie will be ready to scoop Holly up and make her their biggest star should she be booted out of ITV towers.
They have been trying to poach her for several years, and when she last dipped her toe into Beeb waters with her prime-time show Freeze The Fear with Wim Hof, she won plaudits from the most senior management at the Corporation. Few more so than the powerful chief content officer Charlotte Moore.
Insiders at ITV insist that Holly is going nowhere because she is needed to ‘steady the ship, and keep calm and carry on’
READ MORE: The lie got too big for both of us, says crestfallen Phillip Schofield in an interview laying bare his torment
The two women were seen together at last year’s Variety showbusiness awards, something which sent shockwaves through ITV. Did Holly know what she was doing? Probably, says someone who knows her well.
Sources at the BBC even go as far as to divulge that Moore is secretly hoping ITV will decide to part company with Holly.
‘Holly will get bums on seats at home,’ one BBC insider says. ‘She is popular with the very-much-sought-after 16-24 age group, too, which is a huge deal for all broadcasters.’
Another source says they want to make the 42-year-old their Saturday night star for the months Strictly Come Dancing isn’t on screen. ‘That’s the dream,’ they said.
Then there is the matter of her husband, television executive Dan Baldwin. His production company, Hungry Bear Media, makes programmes for channels across the industry, although his biggest customer is the BBC.
He, too, has been trying to pair his wife up with other male co-stars on his shows — such as Lee Mack on Freeze The Fear and Bradley Walsh on Bradley And Holly Take Off —which has ensured that Holly isn’t indelibly linked to Schofield in the public’s minds. Some say Baldwin foresaw a problem coming down the line with Schofield — a man who was once a frequent visitor to Dan and Holly’s £6 million home in Barnes, South-West London.
Undoubtedly, the past few weeks have been testing for Ms Willoughby, but her friends say she is ‘hanging in there’. Now, though, she faces the prospect of being questioned by ITV’s external investigation panel, led by top London barrister Jane Mulcahy KC. While, of course, she would rather not do this, she is keen for the truth to be learned. She told friends: ‘I have nothing to hide.’
But before that, there is a rather more pressing challenge for her. On Monday she will be back on This Morning to face the music. I’m told discussions are still ongoing over whether she addresses the subject of Schofield or not. And if so, then how.
‘It’s a quandary,’ says a show insider. ‘If she discusses it, the circus will continue; if she doesn’t, isn’t it a bit strange for the viewers?’
Holly is said to be taking her lead from her employers. But as she arrives back in the studio, sun tan and all, she will surely also be desperately wishing that those images of her standing close to her former co-star’s young lover would disappear for good.
Phillip Schofield wasted no time in playing the victim during his interview with the BBC but it’s his wife I feel sorry for
By Jan Moir
Phillip Schofield looked much diminished in his BBC interview with Amol Rajan. Yet despite his crestfallen and haggard demeanour, he wasted no time in establishing his victim credentials.
‘Do they want me to die?’ he said, speaking of the online and media coverage that has followed his exit from ITV’s This Morning show. ‘Because that is where I am, I have lost everything.’
He told how his two daughters were on suicide watch and invited viewers to imagine how that must feel for them. He said, more or less, that he would have killed himself had it not been for their ministrations once his ‘biggest, sorriest secret’ came out.
He added that he could see no way forward out of the darkness: no future, no television sofa, no nothing.
‘And this is how Caroline Flack felt,’ he said, which felt like a step too far down the path of penitence and into the city of self-pity.
Phillip Schofield looked much diminished in his BBC interview with Amol Rajan
Three years ago the Love Island television presenter, who was known to have mental health issues, committed suicide before going on trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend. For Schofield to compare himself with her was distasteful in the extreme. But here he is, by his own lights, a man with nothing left to lose.
The set-up for the 44-minute interview was sombre, formal and so serious that Rajan was even wearing a jacket and tie. There was a lot to unpack, including the timescale of Schofield’s sexual relationship with his younger colleague, the alleged toxicity and bullying in the This Morning workplace, and who knew what about when and how.
Schofield frequently had to pause to collect his emotions and occasionally looked on the verge of tears, but his voice was clear and his manner was purposeful. Unsurprisingly, his version of events was a much more tepid account than the recent scorching testimonies of former colleagues and friends.
He downgraded the relationship at the centre of the scandal into a ‘workplace fling’ and ‘a moment in the dressing room when something happened’. He was vague on numbers. In the course of the affair these moments only happened ‘four or five times’ but later he amended this to ‘five or six’. His friend was 20 when it happened, later he said he was ‘20, 21’.
He repeated the word ‘consensual’ several times, but never referred directly to sex, only to ‘it’. And he refused to answer when Rajan asked him if he had ever had other homosexual relationships, even if this might have helped to clarify matters.
It would also have been illuminating to know if Schofield had mentored any other youngsters, or secured them jobs in television, but this crucial question was not asked.
The BBC’s former media editor apologised for the prurient nature of some of his inquiries, while both men were protective and respectful of the young man in question.
‘It is clear… that he was a hugely talented and capable young man,’ said Amol. ‘Massively talented, yeah,’ said Phil. A few moments later, Schofield was asked: ‘Did you love him?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘We were just mates. Just mates.’
‘And this is how Caroline Flack felt,’ he said, which felt like a step too far down the path of penitence and into the city of self-pity
Can that be possibly true? And if that was all it was, one wonders why This Morning went into meltdown and how to explain the enormous fuss that has ensued; not to mention the hurt feelings, the workplace ructions, the no-speaks Holly, the furious wife, the sudden resignation and now the external inquiry. It doesn’t make sense, although Phillip has a theory.
‘A very prominent public figure phoned me to say “I have never seen such homophobia in my life”,’ he tutted to Rajan, which was good PR pushback. But was it true?
For this to have credence, we would have to believe that had Schofield befriended a 15-year-old schoolgirl, kept in touch, got her a job as his assistant on This Morning when she was still in her teens, had sex with her when she was ‘20, 21’ – and then lied about their relationship to his bosses and his wife – it would not have been a scandal? M’lud, I beg to argue that it still very much would.
During the interview, Schofield repeatedly said that everything was his fault, while stealthily spreading blame around like cracked icing on a crumbling cake. Homophobia, the media, sly references to the likes of Eamonn Holmes.
‘All I see is angry people shouting about shows they are not on any more,’ he said, in an admirably pitched bitch. It was notable that he was far more apologetic to the young man than to his wife. ‘To him I am the most sorry,’ he said.
Indeed, he talked of how awful it was telling his wife the truth. ‘Oh my God, can you imagine how difficult that conversation was? It was the most incredibly difficult conversation I have ever had to have with her,’ he said, looking ashen.
As the neatly conducted interview came to a close, one was left with the suspicion that it was possibly much more difficult for her.
The lie got too big for both of us, says crestfallen Phillip Schofield in an interview laying bare his torment
By David Wilkes
In two extraordinary interviews, Phillip Schofield has spoken for the first time about his career-ending affair with a much younger man who worked on This Morning.
Looking haunted, his hands were shaking through much of his chat with the BBC, while he was said to have been ‘furiously vaping’ as he spoke to a newspaper.
Anguished Schofield, 61 – who had hosted This Morning since 2002 before he dramatically quit ITV altogether a week ago after admitting he had lied about his relationship with the man – said he has ‘lost everything’ and believes his career is ‘over’.
‘I have to talk about television in the past tense, which breaks my heart,’ he told the BBC. ‘What am I going to do with my days? I see nothing ahead of me but blackness, sadness regret, remorse and guilt. I did something very wrong, and then I lied about it consistently.’
He said the criticism he’s faced since admitting the affair has had a ‘catastrophic effect’, adding: ‘Do you want me to die? Because that’s where I am. I have lost everything.’
Anguished Schofield, 61, said he has ‘lost everything’ and believes his career is ‘over’
In the interviews, Schofield, who was also dropped by his talent agency YMU after his admission to the Mail about the ‘unwise but not illegal relationship’, said he was ‘utterly broken and ashamed’.
FIRST SEXUAL CONTACT ‘WAS IN HIS DRESSING ROOM’
Schofield told the BBC that the young man, who worked as a runner for a short period on This Morning, was 20 when he first had any kind of sexual contact with him.
He told The Sun they had become friends but in 2017 – three years before he came out as gay and separated from wife Stephanie Lowe after 27 years – ‘something happened that just changed it’.
There was ‘a consensual moment’ in Schofield’s dressing room after a show and ‘it was mutual’.
Schofield told the BBC that the young man (pictured far left), who worked as a runner for a short period on This Morning, was 20 when he first had any kind of sexual contact with him
He said he did not have a ‘love affair’ with the man and that ‘it was not a relationship, we were not boyfriends, we were mates’.
He said ‘it wasn’t feelings’ he was getting but it was ‘more like mates: excitement’. He added: ‘I was really struggling with my sexuality at that time in the build up to what happened.’ The pair only had ‘five or six romantic encounters’ over a period of around six months.
He said they met at Schofield’s apartment in south-east London only once after he phoned the young man to invite him over for a beer.
He also denied using ITV money to pay for taxis for the man, saying: ‘I don’t have an ITV account.’
Schofield said he had ‘no excuse’ for what happened, ‘no one did anything wrong apart from me’ and ‘I was unprofessional, one time, in a 41-year career’.
He added that he and the young man ‘stupidly’ thought that ‘nobody knew’ about them.
Earlier this week, ITV said the man was 19 when he did work experience at This Morning in 2015, and 20 years old when he applied and secured a job as a runner on the show.
He later moved to Loose Women in 2019 and left ITV in 2021.
‘I’M NOT A GROOMER’
The presenter first met the man, then aged 15, when he was invited to open a drama school.
‘Immediately or sometime’ after, an unnamed mutual friend said, ‘will you follow him on Twitter, because he’s a fan?’ Schofield told the BBC. He agreed.
He said he follows 11,300 people on Twitter and in all the time he has been on the social media platform ‘there has never been any whiff of impropriety’.
The pair were ‘hardly’ in touch, but the young man later got in contact to ask ‘if he could visit the studios, work experience-type of thing’, which Schofield helped him to do. He said the man was 19 when he had first expressed an interest in a television career.
The presenter first met the man, then aged 15, when he was invited to open a drama school
Asked if there was ‘any sense in which you were flirting with him’ in the messages, he replied: ‘No.’
He confirmed he did help the young man put a showreel together, but said he was then given a job at This Morning ‘on his own merits because he was very good’.
Schofield shook his head when asked by the BBC’s Amol Rajan if they had sent pictures of themselves to each other when the young man was aged between 15 and 18. He said their messages were ‘just work-related, just career advice’. It never came across to Schofield as an abuse of power ‘because we’d become mates’.
Schofield told The Sun that he knew photos of him and the young man at the drama school circulating on Twitter ‘look shocking’ but insisted: ‘I’m not a groomer.’
HOLLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE ROMANCE
Schofield apologised to Holly Willoughby, who presented This Morning with him for 14 years, for lying about his secret relationship and for tainting her public image.
‘I’ve lost my best friend. I let her down. I let that entire show down. I let the viewers down,’ he told The Sun. ‘Holly did not know [about the affair]. And she was one of the first texts that I sent to say, “I am so, so sorry that I lied to you.”
‘She didn’t reply and I understand why she didn’t reply. So if anyone is in any way linking Holly to this, that is absolutely, wholly untrue.’
Schofield apologised to Holly Willoughby, who presented This Morning with him for 14 years, for lying about his secret relationship with his colleague (centre) and for tainting her public image
BBC journalist Amol Rajan interviewing Schofield
He told the newspaper the pair have broken all contact, and said it was his paedophile brother’s imprisonment that made her distance herself from the friendship.
Timothy Schofield, 54, was jailed for 12 years last month for sexually abusing a schoolboy.
Describing Ms Willoughby, 42, as his ‘TV sister’, Schofield said he understood why she would think, ‘I have to step back from this’.
He told the BBC, when asked who on the This Morning team knew about his affair: ‘To my knowledge, I mean, somebody has to know something for there to be a rumour later on. I didn’t believe that anybody knew.’
COLLEAGUE ‘WASN’T MADE TO SIGN NDA’
He denied allegations that the young man was made to sign a gagging clause to keep him silent over their affair.
When the BBC’s Amol Rajan asked: ‘Do you know if he has signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from speaking?’ Schofield replied: ‘Did I make him sign an NDA? No, absolutely not.’
Earlier there were claims that the young man had ‘received a financial settlement’ from ITV after their affair ended.
But Schofield told The Sun that the man did not receive a penny in hush money.
He said the truth was coming out now as ‘the lie got too big for both of us’ – and that his ‘greatest apology’ over the fallout was to his former lover.
The presenter went on: ‘It has brought the greatest misery into his totally innocent life, his totally innocent family, his totally innocent friends. It has brought the greatest grief to them.”
He added: ‘I am deeply sorry and I apologise to him because I should have known better. I should have acted the way I have always acted. I should not have done it. I’m sorry. And I will for ever be sorry. I will die sorry. I am so deeply mortified.’ Schofield said he didn’t lie to protect his career, adding the young man didn’t want his name in public and ‘wanted his own life’.
‘The lies grew bigger and bigger and bigger. It was affecting both of us deeply. It got to the stage where it was out of control and for whatever cost, it had to stop,’ he said. ‘I have massive guilt, and regret. I’ve made a mistake, I’ve had an affair at work.’
When the BBC’s Amol Rajan asked: ‘Do you know if he has signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from speaking?’ Schofield replied: ‘Did I make him sign an NDA? No, absolutely not’
‘DAUGHTERS SAVED ME’
Schofield praised his daughters Molly, 29, and Ruby, 27, for ‘guarding him’ as he struggles to cope with the fall-out from the affair. He told the BBC: ‘Last week if my daughters hadn’t been there then I wouldn’t be here. And they’ve guarded me and won’t let me out of their sight, it’s like a weird numbness.
‘I know that’s a selfish point of view. But you come to a point where you just think, how much are you supposed to take?’
He also said telling his wife Ms Lowe about his affair ‘was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to have with her’.
He added: ‘She is extremely disappointed because I lied to her as well.’
He said telling his wife Ms Lowe about his affair ‘was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to have with her’
‘HOMOPHOBIA TO BLAME FOR CRITICISM’
The presenter suggested homophobia could be behind some of the criticism levelled at him over the age gap between him and his former lover.
He told The Sun: ‘Attraction is attraction. It’s no different in the gay world as it is in the heterosexual world. There shouldn’t be a difference. This is where homophobia comes in.’
He said when they first got together he was in his 50s, adding: ‘So yeah, there’s a difference.’ He said such age gaps were accepted if Leonardo DiCaprio dated a younger woman but ‘it’s not accepted if it’s in the gay world.’
Schofield added: ‘People are attracted to, or have relationships – wise or unwise – with people of different ages.
‘Yes, I see what it looks like from the outside world. I just want to apologise to everyone.’
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