PHILLIP Schofield’s use of the phrase “unwise but not illegal” to describe the relationship he had with a much younger colleague is very telling.

In a bombshell statement to the Daily Mail, the former This Morning presenter admitted he had lied when he denied rumours of the affair to his wife, his agent, his lawyers and to newspaper outlets that had been pursuing this story for some weeks.

The statement amounted to one of the most astonishing mea culpas the entertainment world has ever seen. But Schofield deserves no praise for his belated honesty.

The veteran presenter said he was “deeply sorry” for lying about the relationship. He stopped short of apologising for the relationship itself, which – given everything we now know – many would describe in much stronger terms than merely “unwise”.

Schofield met the man who would become his lover when the boy was just 15, when he gave a talk at the student’s school. The boy had ambitions to make a career in television and reached out to the presenter for help.

Once the boy had finished his GCSEs, Schofield secured an interview for him and he began working at This Morning when he was in his late teens.

There have been reports that the closeness between the teenager and Schofield – who was at this point in his early 50s – was something unusual enough to attract comment from show colleagues.

Schofield says the relationship amounted to nothing more than a friendship while the teenager worked for the show. But given that the pair could often be seen eating out together at restaurants around the studio and Schofield regularly took the young man to awards shows with him, the rumours continued.

Since Schofield’s statement, ITV has begun some reputation-management of its own. The channel admitted it investigated the rumours in 2020 but when both Schofield and the teenager “categorically and repeatedly denied” that they had had a relationship, the investigation was shut down.

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It was shortly after that investigation concluded that Schofield came out as gay and the teenager was moved from working on This Morning to Loose Women, which the channel described as a “promotion”.

The fall-out from this grubby series of events shows no sign of abating. High-profile names – including Schofield’s former This Morning co-star Holly Willoughby – have in recent days tried to distance themselves from him and the actions that led to his downfall.

Despite the revelations, many questions remain unanswered.

For ITV, this story is fast developing into a crisis. Many will want to know more about the channel’s recruitment and safeguarding procedures.

How can it be that one of the channel’s biggest stars can facilitate employment of a teenager and then appoint himself as his unofficial mentor without any of the usual checks and balances that a workplace would usually have in similar circumstances?

Given that Schofield’s close relationship with the boy seemed to be an open secret how was it that a denial from the presenter – which turned out to be a lie – was enough to stop the show digging further to uncover the truth?

I suspect there is much more to come from this story but for the time being, I’ll only go as far to say that Schofield’s behaviour amounts to a gross abuse of power.

The power dynamic between the pair was clearly unbalanced. You can’t discuss a relationship between a high-profile man in his 50s and a junior colleague who has only just reached adulthood without mentioning that fact.

It is that which turns a relationship – even a consensual one – from “unwise” and misguided to something that should have never happened.

Schofield’s former mentee and lover is now in his 20s. It’s hard to imagine what he must be going through right now. Those who claim to deplore Schofield’s behaviour, while sharing the young man’s photograph and name online, should be ashamed of themselves.

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He has done nothing wrong and shouldn’t be a casualty in Schofield’s downfall. He deserves peace and he deserves privacy.

He has been let down by both Schofield and his former workplace.

The complete absence of any of the usual working practices and procedures to safeguard young, impressionable workers is something that ITV needs to urgently address.

Once again, we see bosses and big names scramble to distance themselves from scandal after the fact, long after they failed to take the opportunity to intervene while it was actually happening.

On the face of it, the unflinching statements from Schofield, his agents and ITV should be enough to draw this story to a close.

But the fact that they were each seemingly explosive in their honesty should raise eyebrows.

Brands are geared towards self-preservation.

If they are revealing such damaging information now, it begs the question: what more is there to come?