Phillip Schofield denies he groomed young ITV show runner for affair

Disgraced former New Zealand TV host Phillip Schofield says he "did not" groom a young ITV show runner for an affair in his first interview since being forced to leave UK TV show This Morning.

Schofield resigned from the ITV show after weeks of speculation about tensions between himself and co-host Holly Willoughby. He was subsequently dropped from his agency after he admitted to lying to ITV, his agent, his lawyer, and his family about an affair with a young ITV employee, who was just 15 years old when the pair first met.

In an interview with UK tabloid The Sun, Schofield was asked if he had groomed the young employee.

"I did not, I did not [groom him]," he is reported as saying, revealing he was "broken and ashamed".

"There are accusations of all sorts of things. It never came across that way because we'd become mates. I don't know about that. But of course I understand that there will be a massive judgement, but bearing in mind, I have never exercised that anywhere else."

Schofield told the paper their affair had begun in 2017 following a "consensual moment" in his dressing room. He denied claims they were boyfriends, saying it was "not a love affair, it was not a relationship, we were not boyfriends; we were mates".

The former TV show veteran insisted he did not "lie to protect" his own career but his colleague had not wanted "his name in public".

"At the time I did not think about it possibly ruining my career. I really probably only thought about it when I saw the rumour mill, and saw it growing", he told The Sun.

"Then I saw the link with the drama school photo from all those years before, and thought, 'This looks shocking'.

"But I didn't lie to protect my career, he didn't want his name in public. He wanted his own life." 

Schofield is also believed to have done an interview with the BBC, which is thought to broadcast in the coming days.

In a trailer, the presenter told BBC News: "It was a totally innocent picture, a totally innocent Twitter follow, of which I follow 11,400 people, and then it was a completely innocent backwards and forwards over a period of time about a job, about careers.

"What's wrong with that? What's wrong with talking to someone no matter what age they are? Does that mean that if you're following anyone on Twitter that you absolutely don't talk to anybody else or you don't give advice?" Schofield said in the trailer.

Earlier this week, former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes launched a stinging attack on disgraced fellow presenter Phillip Schofield, calling him a "dyed-in-the-wool narcissist" who was "deluded".

Holmes appeared on GB News, where he is now a presenter, in a one-on-one interview with New Zealand-born Dan Wootton in which he said he was speaking up for "all my workmates over the years who were frightened and ignored" by Schofield and his behaviour. Holmes and his wife Ruth Langsford previously presented the Friday edition of the This Morning show.

"A lie unchallenged becomes the truth," Holmes said as the interview began.

"Is he so detached from life at This Morning, does he not know what's going on? He is the chief narcissist, a complete dyed-in-the wool narcissist," he said, referring to claims the working atmosphere on the popular UK daytime show was fine.