‘I will regret it forever’: Phillip Schofield addresses This Morning affair scandal in emotional BBC interview

Disgraced ITV presenter addressed the fallout from his admission to an ‘unwise but not illegal’ affair with a younger colleague on ‘This Morning’ in a lengthy interview with the BBC’s Amol Rajan

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 02 June 2023 09:25 BST
Phillip Schofield says he has ‘lost everything’ in BBC interview

Phillip Schofield has denied “grooming” the ITV colleague with whom he had an affair while working together on This Morning, in his first sit-down interview to address the scandal.

Schofield, 61, resigned from the broadcaster altogether after admitting to an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a younger male employee, whom he first met during a school visit when the man in question was 15.

After his admission, Schofield was also dropped by his agent YMU and stepped down from what would have been his final presenting role, as the host of the British Soap Awards.

In the interview with the BBC’s Amol Rajan, Schofield appeared distraught and exhausted as he reflected on the fallout from the revelations of the past two weeks, comparing the backlash to the one received by late Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, and asked: “How much are you supposed to take?”

He credited his daughters with “saving his life”, saying they been looking after him and claiming they were “scared to let me out of their sight”.

“What is that like, for daughters to have to go through something like that?” he asked, implying that he had experienced suicidal thoughts.

“They said to me, ‘Don’t you dare do this on our watch. We’re supposed to be looking after you.’ And if my girls hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here, because I don’t see a future. And so how much do you want a man to take, and are you only truly happy when he’s dead?”

“This is how Caroline Flack felt,” he said. “And it didn’t stop.”

Flack, known for hosting the ITV reality dating show Love Island, took her own life aged 40 in 2020 during what her family condemned as a “show trial” where she had been charged with assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, which she denied.

Schofield drawing a comparison between Flack and himself has proven particularly contentious, with one viewer commenting on Twitter: “Schofield comparing his situation to Caroline Flack just goes to show how utterly deluded he is and unable to accept responsibility for his actions.”

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However, others on social media agreed and sympathised with the current media pile-on, with one commenting: “He’s accepted his flaws and that he’s wrong so we must move on. We shouldn’t have another Flack repeat.”

Former Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan tweeted: “Unless Phillip Schofield’s ex-lover contradicts his version of events to The Sun and [the] BBC, then it’s time to stop this relentless persecution of a guy who’s lost everything and looks right on the edge to me. He doesn’t seem to have committed any crime, and he’s not a [government] minister.”

Caroline Flack took her own life in 2020

During the 44-minute conversation, Schofield gave his account of his first meeting with the unnamed boy, apologised to him and also to his former co-star, Holly Willoughby, and suggested that homophobia could be playing a part in the loudest criticism of him, from both the media and the public.

He said he was “utterly broken and ashamed” over his actions, but insisted that he “did not” groom him.

The school visit was, he said, something he’d done “thousands of times” before. After meeting the students, he said he was asked to follow the boy on Twitter because he was a fan, and they engaged in an “on and off” conversation about work-related topics.

“I follow 11,300 people and in all the time that I’ve been on Twitter there has never been any whiff of impropriety”, he said.

Schofield said he arranged for the teenager to get work experience with ITV when he was around 19. He denied having any form of sexual contact with him until he was around 20 years old, after he’d been working on the show for a few months, and insisted the relationship was “consensual and fully legal”.

“You met someone who was a child, you were in a position of power over them, you used your power eventually to give them something they craved, which was a shot at a job in the media, you nurtured a relationship and that relationship became sexual”, Rajan said. “[People] might ask, what’s the difference between that and grooming?”

“We were mates,” Schofield said of the relationship. “And then in my dressing room one day, something happened. Which obviously I will regret forever, for him and for me – mostly him – but that happened maybe four or five times over the next few months.

“I know it’s unforgivable,” he continued. “But we weren’t boyfriends, we weren’t in a relationship. I was really in a mess with my own sexuality at the time, and it just happened.”

Schofield said that the work experience placement then led to a job “on his own merit… because he was very good at his job”.

“Everybody loved him,” he said. “He worked very hard.”

He 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 said. “He applied to go to [another ITV programme] and got the job entirely on his own merits.”

Later in the interview, Schofield pleaded with the media and the public to “leave [the man] alone now” as there was “an innocent person here who didn’t do anything wrong, who is vulnerable and probably feels like I do”.

If it was male-female then it wouldn’t be such a scandal

Phillip Schofield

He said he believed that homophobia was playing a factor in the backlash towards him: “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 denied that there was ever any kind of non-disclosure agreement preventing the young man from speaking out, or an injunction that might stop the media from covering the story.

He emphatically denied what he described as a “categorically untrue” claim that a newspaper had made a deal with him in 2019, allegedly agreeing not to write about the affair in return for an exclusive interview about Schofield coming out as gay.

Referring to the ITV investigation in 2019, when both he and his then-colleague were questioned about rumours of an affair, he said it “wasn’t formal” but that “if you have two people who are lying, what can you do?”

ITV bosses last week ordered an external legal review into Schofield’s departure from This Morning, including looking into the statement he made when he agreed to leave the show.

Phillip Schofield said he’s ‘lost’ his ‘best friend’ Holly Willoughby due to scandal

The review will also assess ITV’s processes and policies and whether they need to be changed or strengthened, the letter from chief executive Dame Carolyn Mccall told culture secretary Lucy Frazer.

“Given Phillip’s admission of the extent of his deception, the work will extend to cover any related issues that may emerge. This work will be carried out as quickly as possible and we will be happy to share the outcome,” the letter added.

“The relationships we have with those we work with are based on trust. Phillip made assurances to us and his agency which he now acknowledges were untrue and we feel badly let down.”

In the interview with Rajan, 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.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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