The editor of This Morning has accused critics of score settling, as he defended the show’s culture following the Phillip Schofield scandal.
A defiant Martin Frizell denied claims of a “toxic” culture at the flagship ITV programme and described sustained media scrutiny as “tiring” for staff.
The comments follow mounting pressure on senior executives to explain what they knew of Schofield’s affair with the much younger runner, which the presenter described as “unwise” but “not illegal”.
Schofield left the show a fortnight ago and last week described his long television career as “over” and suggested he had considered suicide over the backlash.
It comes as the influential chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Dame Caroline Dinenage, accused ITV of “lurching from one disaster to another” in the wake of the scandal.
ITV’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, is due to be grilled by MPs on committee on June 14.
‘Read between the lines’
Speaking on Saturday, Mr Frizell, 64, sought to shift the focus onto critics of This Morning.
Asked if he recognised claims that the culture on the show was or had been toxic, he said: “I think you’ve got to read between the lines. I think there are some scores being settled.”
Dr Ranj Singh, a former regular contributor, used the word to describe his experiences, while former co-presenter Eamonn Holmes has also said that a “toxic” culture left staff terrified, a claim dismissed by Schofield.
This week bosses sought to defuse criticism by commissioning a top lawyer, Jane Mulcahy KC, to conduct an independent review of what happened, which could see Schofield’s co-star Holly Willoughby, Mr Frizell and more senior executives questioned, as well as the young man himself.
Described by insiders as “determined to be famous”, he left the television industry with alleged ITV payout in 2020, and now helps run a pub in the north of England.
The Telegraph has discovered that the youth theatre group where Schofield met the young man, then aged 15, shut down in 2020.
He admitted in an interview that the affair started when he kissed the young man in his ITV dressing room in 2017.
ITV insiders have told The Telegraph that the junior employee was not treated like a normal runner, and had unprecedented access to Schofield, Willoughby and their celebrity guests.
Mr Frizell told Sky News: “There will be lots of time when this is all over to go through who did what, when why.
“We’re looking forward to talking to the KC. She will find those answers.”
He added: “I’m working with a fantastic team of mainly women, many mums. A lot of them are concerned for their jobs, although we’ve told them not to be.
“But this is the 23rd day now of being on the front page and it’s tiring. I just think they need a bit of respite now.”
On Monday, Holmes alleged that there was a “total cover-up” on This Morning over Schofield’s affair, and claimed that “those in authority” had to have known what was going on.
Willoughby, who has been on holiday in Portugal for much of the past two weeks is due to return to presenting duties on Monday.
Speaking to GB News, Dame Caroline said ITV “does not have a very good track record” of duty of care towards staff and complaint handling, referencing Love Island, Caroline Flack and the Jeremy Kyle show.
“The public must have confidence in broadcasters to make sure that they are robustly safeguarding the interests of their staff,” she said, adding: “They seem to be lurching from one tragic disaster to another and I do feel it’s time that Carolyn McCall came before the committee and answered a few questions.”
Dame Carolyn, the ITV boss, said in a letter this week that ITV had been supporting the young man.