Nadine Dorries has piled pressure on Holly Willoughby and called for a probe into complaints made to ITV about Phillip Schofield on This Morning after the Mail revealed how the veteran broadcaster met his lover when he was 15.
The former culture secretary also accused Schofield of abusing ‘authority, power and trust’ after he confessed to having an affair with the younger colleague and covering it up with lies.
The 61-year-old presenter quit ITV on Friday after admitting to the Daily Mail that he lied about an ‘unwise but not illegal’ affair with a much younger man. His co-host of 13 years Holly, who Ms Dorries claims ‘has questions to answer’, said that it was ‘hurtful’ to discover she had been lied to when she confronted him over rumours of the affair.
Sources close to the presenter said it had been a ‘traumatic’ revelation for the This Morning host and a ‘time of real sadness’ as Schofield ‘was her very close friend’ but that she has ‘absolutely no plans to leave’ the show.
ITV confirmed that they had investigated rumours of the relationship, which first begun to circulate in 2020, but that Schofield and the young man had ‘repeatedly denied’ the affair.
As Schofield’s 38-year career lays in ruins, Ms Dorries is the latest to speak out against the TV presenter.
Calling for an investigation into the complaints made to ITV, she told BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg today: ‘The fact that Phillip Schofield has made a rather grovelling apology to the Daily Mail in the form of an email there seems to be this understanding that that’s it now and everything will move on. It’s not the case I’m afraid.
‘What it actually does is opens up more questions as to what happened. We know that there were complaints lodged with ITV over a long period of time. What happened to those complaints? I think the editor of the programme Martin Frizell has some questions to answer himself.
‘And I’m afraid so does Holly Willoughby. How did that young boy, so young, get a job at ITV. What were the processes involved. What was the safeguarding in place for someone so young at that age. What contact was first made. Who contacted who?’
Nadine Dorries (pictured) has piled pressure on Holly Willoughby and called for a probe into complaints made to ITV about Phillip Schofield on This Morning
Phillip Schofield with fellow younger colleague who became his lover leaving The Ivy Club, London
The 61-year-old presenter quit ITV on Friday after admitting to the Daily Mail that he lied about an ‘unwise but not illegal’ affair with a much younger man. His co-host of 13 years Holly said it was ‘hurtful’ to find out she had been lied to
When asked whether presenters such as Schofield have too much power, Ms Dorries, who has been presenting herself recently, added: ‘There are men, men particularly, who have positions of authority or trust and power, kind of think they are above the law and above those standards that the rest of us are held by and held to.
‘I think there’s absolutely an element of that which takes place.’
When quizzed over her own experience of being on the This Morning sofa, she said: ‘Never easy, as you known Laura, being interviewed as a politician by a presenter or a journalist, it’s never an easy experience.
‘But I just found him to be quite bullying in his attitude towards the co-host who was standing in for Holly Willoughby. That made me feel more uncomfortable than answering the questions. When the camera was on me and I was talking, he started aggressively jabbing at the scripts with his hands, the pages were rattling. The co-presenter looked terrified.’
Her hard-hitting comments come as questions continue to mount over the future of ITV bosses, including CEO Carolyn McCall, and the popular daytime TV show, prompting the network to insist today that This Morning will not be axed.
Extinguishing speculation with a direct 30-word statement, an ITV spokesman said today: ‘As we said on the record yesterday, This Morning is not under review and there’s no plans for the show to be axed.
‘This Morning will return as normal tomorrow.’
It comes after Holly told of her devastation when she discovered he had lied to her about the relationship.
She revealed: ‘When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not. It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.’
Schofield met his future lover at a theatre school in North West England when he was in his late 40s.
Some years later the younger man became a production assistant on This Morning when Schofield was in his early 50s and their ill-advised friendship – which grew into a relationship – started.
ITV bosses, including CEO Carolyn McCall (pictured) are facing questions about the affair that the network investigated in 2020
ITV has rushed to extinguish rumours circulating over the future of This Morning
ITV confirmed that they had investigated rumours of the relationship, which first begun to circulate in 2020, but that Schofield and the young man had ‘repeatedly denied’ the affair
The scandal over the affair follows a turbulent few months for Schofield, who for decades was ITV’s king of daytime television.
But eight days ago he sensationally quit This Morning after 21 years after falling out with Ms Willoughby, 42. His departure came just a day after his younger brother Timothy was jailed for 12 years for 11 convictions of sexual offences involving a child.
Schofield was forced to confirm allegations of an affair were true because his former lover – who had also worked on This Morning – had unexpectedly confessed all to his lawyers.
The presenter had hired top law firm Mishcon de Reya to represent the young man, now in his mid 20s, presumably believing that he would keep quiet.
But his former lover told lawyers that although he feared exposure, he was fed up lying about the relationship.
Although ITV investigated Schofield’s affair in 2020, a senior lawyer has said there should be a ‘probe’ into the affair over a possible ‘abuse of power’.
Richard Scorer, of Slater and Gordon, said that while all of the details of the relationship were not yet known, ‘any situation where a young person may have been subjected to a potential imbalance of abuse of power needs to be investigated fully and independently’.
The abuse specialist added that the long-standing rumours about the affair – and the allegations that others in ITV were aware of the relationship – meant it was ‘imperative that there is a full and transparent investigation’.
The calls for a probe come as ITV’s chief is said to believe that This Morning’s reputation is ‘tarnished beyond repair’ – leaving presenters and crew scrambling for their jobs.
PR expert Mark Borkowski told MailOnline that the future of ITV bosses, including McCall, will likely be safe because Schofield admitted to deceiving everyone.
As for Schofield’s future in TV, he said: ‘Phillip Scofield has no future, its over for him for the level he has lied to everyone and he has admitted to that.’
He added that ITV now has to move on and focus on the programme. ‘Holly Willoughby and all her advisers and publicists will need to work extremely hard and work on great television to bring that back,’ he said.
‘ITV and all these people need to get their PR right. It’s been DIY PR. It’s been the equivalent in PR terms of looking for a gas leak with a matchstick.’