The iconic double act, who have won the Best Presenter award every year since 2001, are nominated in the category again, where they’ll face competition from Graham Norton, Holly Willoughby, Phillip Schofield and Bradley Walsh.
However, the two Geordies have barely appeared on television together this year, following McPartlin’s arrest for drink-driving and rehab stint. The last time he was seen alongside his co-presenter was for the pre-recorded Britain’s Got Talent auditions in May.
With McPartlin in rehab, Donnelly presented the remainder of Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent on his own, while Holly Willoughby stood in as his co-presenter for I’m A Celebrity.
O’Leary has now jokingly claimed that if McPartlin and Donnelly win the NTA, having barely presented together, everyone else might as well not bother.
Speaking to The Daily Star, he said: “If Ant and Dec win it this year, we may as well just chuck in the towel.
“With the greatest respect to the boys, I think Holly has had such a great year, and Graham.”
After some publications ran with the story that O’Leary had slated their nomination, the presenter took to Twitter to clear matters up and confirm it was a joke.
I wouldn’t normally react to this, but…
A) I said no such thing. I merely joked that if the boys win this year, we should all chuck in the towel. It was neither serious nor a ‘rage.’ https://t.co/eZWSabKHoO
— Dermot O'Leary (@radioleary) January 16, 2019
Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan also lamented McPartlin’s surprise nomination, arguing that he’d been ‘sat on his backside for the entire year.’
“They’ll win, even though Ant has basically been sat on his backside walking his dog for the last year.
“I mean I love Ant but come on, really? Really British public? You’re going to give the award again to a guy who hasn’t done any work this year? I come in every day!”