'It's actually defamatory': ITV boss Carolyn McCall hits out at Eamonn Holmes

The ITV chief executive was asked about Eamonn Holmes's claim that four 'high members of ITV management' knew about Phillip Schofield.

Watch: ITV Carolyn McCall boss hits out at Eamon Holmes

ITV's Dame Carolyn McCall has accused Eamonn Holmes of defamation against the channel's management.

The ITV chief executive has appeared before a select committee for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to answer questions about allegations of bullying at This Morning, following the resignation of Phillip Schofield.

McCall was asked how she felt about a tweet from former ITV presenter Holmes that claimed four "high members of ITV management knew what sort of man he was", before Schofield confessed to having a secret affair with a younger production assistant.

Read more: MP ridicules Holly Willoughby’s statement over This Morning allegations

McCall replied: "We didn't receive it. It was on Twitter. Don't look at Twitter.

"I think it's actually defamatory. Never mind anything else. But of course, we wouldn't say that because it would just inflame the situation."

Eamonn Holmes
Eamonn Holmes's tweet was branded defamatory by ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall. (Getty Images)

Holmes had tweeted: "Schofield has finally been caught out... But he's not the only guilty party. 4 high members of 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."

Kevin Lygo, managing director of media and entertainment at ITV, said he was not surprised of the vocal criticism from presenters such a Holmes who had been "loyal servants to ITV" for decades and so were disappointed when they were asked to move on.

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Dame Carolyn McCall said she did not look at Twitter. (AFP via Getty Images)

He said: "There has been a very vocal criticism and the mention of all this toxic culture, it's a few people who've got a platform now with a show elsewhere or a newspaper column, or just on Twitter to have a big go.

"These people worked as presenters on ITV for a very long time, some of them over 10 years. There was never any complaint from them whilst they were there. If they wanted anything, it was more work. 'Please, we love it here. Can we do more?'

"Presenters of programmes often have a feeling of divine right to stay there forever.

"I do have sympathy for them when you have to have the difficult conversation of, 'Thank you very much, it's been really good, but actually we'd like you to do less.'

Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes pose in the Winners Room during the National Television Awards held at The O2 Arena on January 22, 2019 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford formerly worked on This Morning with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes. (Getty Images)

"It's not very nice. And I get it because this is their life. They love it. They never complain. They thoroughly enjoy it. And their response always is, is one of disappointment, because they have been, generally speaking, loyal servants to ITV.

"But it's not surprising that when they go, they're suddenly like, 'Oh, I hate ITV. It's awful!' When for a decade or more they were there reaping the rewards and enjoying the job and everybody seemed to get on."

McCall revealed that ITV had first investigated rumours of an inappropriate relationship between Schofield and 'Person X' in December 2019 and insisted there had been "no tangible evidence" that is was true.

Lygo said he asked Schofield about the rumours when he first resigned from This Morning but before he confessed to the affair.

 Kevin Lygo, Director of Television ITV, at the Edinburgh TV Festival, on August 23, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
ITV executive Kevin Lygo said Phllip Schofield looked him in the eye and said there was no truth in the affair rumours. (Getty Images)

Lygo said: "He looked me in the eye and said there is absolutely no truth in the rumours of the relationship. I believed him."

MP John Nicholson told the committee he'd received "dozens" of messages from current and former ITV star about bullying.

He read one aloud saying ITV: "A terrible place to work... daytime in particular is absolutely toxic."

Another said: "If someone complains about bullying or sexual impropriety, ITV pretends to investigate... then they will decide there is no bullying. The person who complains is then forced to leave, often with an NDA... and they're told they can't return to work there because of false allegations."

McCall said the statements were "distressing" and "worrying" and asked him to hand those comments over to ITV to investigate.

Phillip Schofield
Phillip Schofield says he has lost everything. (ITV)

In May, Phillip Schofield announced he was stepping down as host of This Morning, before quitting ITV altogether after he confessed to having a secret affair.

In an interview with the BBC's Amol Rajan, Schofield said he had "lost everything".

Read more: Eamonn Holmes: Holly Willoughby 'stabbed Phillip Schofield in the back'

Holmes left ITV after he and wife Ruth Langsford were replaced in January 2021 as the regular Friday hosts of This Morning by Alison Hammond and Dermot O'Leary.

Since leaving ITV, Holmes has called the channel "sly" over the way he was replaced with no explanation.

Following Phillip Schofield's resignation Holmes has claimed there was a "total cover-up" at This Morning and called it a toxic place to work.

Watch: Phillip Schofield - what did ITV know?