Fears Schofield scandal has left Holly and This Morning brand ‘tainted’

Senior ITV bosses could face the axe and This Morning may be canned as the Phillip Schofield scandal threatens to engulf the channel.

The ITV flagship daytime programme is now so “tainted” by the fallout that there are fears it could also impact on Schofield’s former co-host Holly Willoughby, say TV insiders.

Top execs at the channel are now “sweating” following claims of a cover-up.

Schofield, 61, quit ITV on Friday after admitting to an affair with a young male colleague on the show. Confessing he had lied to bosses and his representatives.

Eamonn Holmes, who co-hosted the show with wife Ruth Holmes on Fridays for more than 15 years, blasted the channel for their handling of the sitiuation, stating “Four high members of the ITV management knew what sort of man he was… and NEVER once took action to prevent him controlling or taking advantage of his position over young people”.

He said: “Schofield has finally been caught out… but he’s not the only guilty party.”

ITV came out fighting yesterday (sat) and said when stories of the relationship began circulating in early 2020 an investigation was held but both Schofield and the man “categorically“ denied it and bosses “did not find any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour”.

Schofield, 61, dramatically announced he was stepping back from presenting This Morning last Saturday amid rumours of an ongoing feud between him and Willoughby.

Among the reasons for their falling out was claims he had kept his co-presenter of over 13 years Willoughby, 42, in the dark about his brother Timothy’s upcoming trial for child sex abuse.

ITV bosses at the time backed him, and director of TV Kevin Lygo described him as “hands down one of the best broadcasters of his generation” who would continue working for the channel presenting a new peak time series and The British Soap Awards.

However, on Friday night Schofield confessed he had helped young man – who he met when the lad was a teenager – to get a job on the show and then had a relationship with him while still married to his wife Stephanie Lowe.

He said the “relationship was unwise, but not illegal” but said he had misled his lawyers and a newspaper and “lied” to his employers, colleagues and friends, agents, the public and his family. 

He resigned from ITV with immediate effect and was dropped by agents YMU.

Yet the scandal now threatens the future of ITV bosses as former GMTV host and now MP Esther McVey believing it will be “a matter of days” before executives at the show also resigned, including chief executive Carolyn McCall, “because they’re going to have to draw a line.”

She said: “People could lose their jobs over this, from the chief executives right the way down.”

“So will we see heads rolling and will we see this show go?”

Fellow GB News presenter Philip Davis agreed with his wife and said he thought it was “difficult to see the chief executive of ITV seeing next week out.”

Former EastEnders actress Debbie Arnold, who has appeared on This Morning said the scandal “hasn’t done Holly (Willoughby) any favours.”

“I fear for Holly actually, and I know she’s been his friend and it must be devastating for her. But I think This Morning’s brand is tainted.”

ATV insider told the Sunday Express last night: “I can’t see how Holly can come back to the This Morning sofa.”

“How could she possibly pick up and carry on like nothing has happened.”

They added: “ This Morning is a broken brand.”

“Phil)has worked in the industry for 40 years and doesn’t seem to have one friend. Isn’t that telling?”

And an ITV source also told the Sunday Express “talk is also that ITV’s director of TV Kevin Lygo is sweating” and they said the network’s head of daytime Emma Gormley could face questions over the handling of the Schofield situation. 

The insider says that across several network TV shows many workers had discussed Phillip’s closeness to the young co-worker, with it “being talked about openly in social situations”

On top of that Schofield, still married to wife Stephanie Lowe, didn’t hide his “close friendship and fondness to the man” during some work moments.

It was claimed the warning signs were ignored and when the man left the channel bosses stayed loyal to Schofield.

The source said: “There seemed to be a sense from some that the man was simply shunted out of the way, and he felt aggrieved by what had happened to him. 

“Certainly he wanted the matter to be looked at. But nothing was really done.”

“Phillip carried on with the bosses’ backing. It felt like that simply took Phillip’s word that he had done nothing wrong.”

“Everyone thinks that that executives jobs are on the line. This has been an unmitigated disaster.”

“Sure Phillip’s statement said he had lied to everyone, but many staffers have questioned why a deep probe was not held to examine what happened.”

“It’s clear that Phillip told them his version of events and they all believed him.”

“This was clearly a man who was desperate to maintain his fame and status, even if it meant lying.”

“No-one seemed to take that into consideration. What makes it worse is that Kevin and Emma have been huge supporters of him for many years.”

“People are scratching their heads as to how things got that far. And then what made it worse was ITV went public to support him staying with him even after he quit This Morning. “That announcement of sticking by him looks absolutely amateur now.”

“It is a really poor look and disastrous strategy for the business. Someone has dropped the ball. There are people scrambling as we speak to try and explain how this has spiralled into such a disastrous mess.”

“The shareholders will want answers, because this makes the channel look amateur.”

Although Scofield’s ITV career was now over, he has “an ego and a tough side, which will make him believe there is a future. 

“But the lies and deception of his closest friends make him an impossible hire. There is no way back.”

“Many executives are sweating this weekend.”

Willoughby is due back on the screen on June 5, having taken an “early half term holiday” last Monday.

Alice Beer, who has been This Morning’s consumer presenter since 2014 said: “Sad and angry. This sorry mess reflects on all of us who have enjoyed the fun and glory of working on such a successful programme.”

Yesterday the channel said: “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.”

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