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My romantic relationship at ITV was ‘a grave error’ – Phillip Schofield

Phillip Schofield has said he has “lost everything” and does not see a future for his career, in an emotional and frank interview with BBC News.

After fleeing waiting paparazzi outside his house, he sat down with Amol Rajan to tell his side of the story.

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Schofield said his “career is over” following the affair he had with a young male colleague.

He said the pair were “not boyfriends” and they only had five or six romantic encounters over a few months.

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However, Schofield said the affair “was a grave error”, adding: “I shouldn’t have done it.”

The TV presenter appeared exhausted and distressed, and spoke quietly as he said he was “desperately sorry”.

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Questions have been raised about ITV’s handling of the situation, how much bosses knew of the affair, and whether its own investigation went far enough.

Following the controversy, Schofield said he doubted he would return to a career in TV. “I have to talk about television in the past tense, which breaks my heart,” he said. “I have lost everything.

Amol Rajan and Phillip Schofield
Image caption, Schofield told the BBC’s Amol Rajan homophobia was a factor in people disapproving of the relationship

“What am I going to do with my days?” he continued. “I see nothing ahead of me but blackness, and sadness, and regret, and remorse, and guilt. I did something very wrong, and then I lied about it consistently.”

Referring to his former colleague, the 61-year-old said: “He is an innocent party here. I was older, I should have known better. [The affair] was consensual, but it was my fault.”

In a detailed interview about the affair, Schofield told the BBC:

  • His colleague was 20 years old when he first had any kind of sexual contact with him
  • He has had suicidal thoughts, adding that his daughters “haven’t left me for a moment” since news of the affair broke
  • The first romantic encounter between Schofield and the man took place in his ITV dressing room
  • Schofield said homophobia was a factor in people who disapproved of their relationship, adding: “If it was male-female then it wouldn’t be such a scandal”
  • He added he understood people who thought there had been an abuse of power, but said it “didn’t feel like that at the time”

Schofield paid tribute to his daughters, who he said had helped him cope with suicidal thoughts in recent days.

“Last week, if my daughters hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “They’ve been by my side every moment because they’re scared to let me out of their sight.”

Schofield explained his first romantic encounter with his colleague took place in his dressing room, adding there were only five or six such encounters in total between the pair over a few months.

“I fully appreciate there is a massive age gap, but that happens in life. I think there is an enormous amount of homophobia that it happens to be male, but if it was male-female then it wouldn’t be such a scandal,” Schofield said.

Television presenter Phillip Schofield arrives with his wife Stephanie Lowe for the Pride of Britain Awards in London, Britain October 30, 2017
Image caption, He said telling his wife Stephanie Lowe about the affair “was the most difficult conversation we’ve ever had”

His admission of the affair raised questions about the power balance between the pair and whether or not Schofield had taken advantage of his position.

“I understand that, and it’s a very valid question to put to me,” Schofield said. “If it’s an abuse of power, it’s not in my nature to be that person, but of course it could be perceived as that. But that wasn’t how it felt at the time.”

ITV has instructed a barrister to carry out an external review to establish the facts about how ITV handled its own investigation into rumours of the affair in 2020.

The network’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has been asked to attend the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 14 June to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding following the controversy.

‘The lie got too big’

Schofield confirmed he first met the man – then a 15-year-old boy – when he was invited to appear as part of an event at a drama school many years ago.

He and the young man began communicating on Twitter after they followed each other following the event. Schofield said he asked for advice on working in the TV industry.

The presenter characterised their communication as a “completely innocent backwards-and-forwards over a period of time, about a job, about careers”.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked. “What’s wrong with talking to someone no matter what age they are, does that mean if you’re following anyone on Twitter that you don’t give advice?”

He continued: “I’ve done it all my life. I’m best friends with the people who got me into television, and I’ve always believed in paying it forward, so I didn’t think about it.”

Schofield noted he follows 11,300 people on Twitter, which he no longer uses, and there had never been “any whiff of impropriety” during his time on the social media platform.

Holly Willoughby (left) and Phillip Schofield during the press launch for the upcoming series of Dancing On Ice at the Natural History Museum Ice Rink in London
Image caption, Schofield and Holly Willoughby presented ITV’s This Morning and Dancing on Ice together before his departure

When the pair met in person for the first time since the drama school event, Schofield said there was “absolutely not” any hint of sexual attraction.

But Schofield said their interactions turned romantic “a few months” after the man began working on This Morning.

“We become mates,” Schofield said. “And, you know, you go around studios, you hang out together, you know, chat to each other, that sort of stuff.

“In my dressing room one day, something happened,” he said. Characterising the affair, Schofield said: “I kissed someone in the workplace, which led on to a little bit more.”

The TV presenter said he got the main jobs on other shows he worked on “because he was a very good runner, and it’s always nice to have a team around you of people that you know”.

He confirmed that his This Morning co-star Holly Willoughby “did not know” about the affair, adding: “Nobody knew.

“Rumours started, and then you lie. When you’ve had a workplace fling, you lie about it,” he said.

ITV previously said it investigated reports of a relationship, but that both parties had repeatedly denied it.

Phillip Schofield being interviewed by Amol Rajan
Image caption, He appeared exhausted in his emotional and frank interview with BBC News

Asked how much his colleagues knew, Schofield said: “Nobody ever asked me about being gay. When the rumour [about the affair] got bigger, then we were both asked.”

Asked if he loved his former colleague, Schofield said “No, we were just mates,” later adding: “We weren’t boyfriends, we weren’t in a relationship.”

The TV presenter added he “absolutely did not” make the man sign a non-disclosure agreement and said he would be free to speak to the media if he wanted to.

Schofield added that, contrary to some press reports, the man was not regularly taken by taxis between Schofield’s London home and the This Morning studios.

“He didn’t frequently come to my flat, he came to the flat once, to my recollection, he didn’t stay over,” he said.

Schofield also denied he had organised for the man to be moved off This Morning to work on another ITV daytime programme when their relationship ended.

“Absolutely categorically not – he was a really good colleague and runner, very good. He applied to go to [another ITV programme] and got the job entirely on his own merits,” he said.

Last week, Schofield went public about the affair, a decision he said he took because “the lie got too big for both of us”.

“It just got enormous, and it crossed over from online to mainstream news, and that had to stop, for his mental health,” he said.

Earlier this week, Schofield was dropped as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust in light of the controversy, something the TV star said “broke my heart”.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales meets Phillip Schofield (L) at the annual Prince's Trust Awards at the London Palladium on March 13, 2019 in London, England.
Image caption, Schofield said being dropped as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust earlier this week “broke my heart”

Asked how his former colleague feels now, Schofield said: “What he wants is for all of this [media coverage] to go away, he wants a quiet life, he didn’t want any of this to happen in the first place.”

Schofield said he last spoke to him “a couple of weeks ago” when he engaged legal support for him, which he is continuing to pay for.

The TV presenter said he was “massively concerned” for the welfare of his former colleague, who he described as “vulnerable”.

He denied reports that there is a toxic environment on This Morning, as well as claims that he had become too powerful or was unpleasant to work with. “I’m not rude on the studio floor, I don’t bully people,” he said.

Schofield also emphatically denied a claim that a newspaper had done a deal with him and his management in 2019, where the media outlet allegedly agreed not to write the story about the young man in return for the exclusive interview about him coming out as gay.

“Absolutely categorically untrue,” Schofield said, adding that he was encouraged to do an interview with the Sun by a media advisor as part of his announcement.

Schofield said telling his wife Stephanie 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”.

Source: BBC

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