Receive our Behind the Headlines email and we’ll post a free copy of Byline Times
GB News presenter Dan Wootton gave conflicting accounts of his involvement in the ‘outing’ of former ITV star Phillip Schofield, Byline Times can reveal.
In now-deleted tweets from March 2020, uncovered by this newspaper, Wootton denied having “ever discussed Phil’s sexuality with ITV” before the veteran broadcaster came out live on air and in the pages of The Sun newspaper.
However, Wootton later admitted to having had a “critical call” in November 2019 with ITV’s group corporate affairs and communications director Paul Moore in which Schofield’s sexuality was central to the conversation.
Schofield quit ITV’s This Morning programme this May after admitting to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague while married to wife Stephanie Lowe, with whom he has two daughters.
Following this, Wootton wrote in an article in his – now suspended – MailOnline column, saying: “I told ITV about Phillip Schofield’s affair with his young colleague in 2019 and urged them to investigate.”
The apparent discrepancy is significant because the public position of Wootton, who is gay, is that he would “never out someone or assist in it”.
Byline Times can now give details about Wootton’s role in Schofield’s decision to reveal his sexuality on air to This Morning’s viewers, before giving The Sun a further exclusive tell-all interview on his outcoming.
‘This is Absolutely My Decision’
A source with knowledge of the matter told this newspaper: “Wootton had been approaching Schofield’s lover and that was what started the ball rolling. That led to a conversation between Wootton and Schofield; what they call a ‘front up’ in newspaper terms. The private matter of Phillip’s sexuality was the crux of it.”
Wootton also asked ITV about Schofield and the workplace culture at This Morning, preceding a deal between The Sun and the veteran presenter’s advisors in which he announced he was gay.
However, Wootton denies any involvement in Schofield’s coming out, writing on MailOnline on 27 May: “Contrary to incorrect and malicious internet rumours, I never once suggested that the solution was outing Phillip Schofield.”
In the same piece, Wootton described the 2019 conversation with Mr Moore, who was right-hand man to ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall.
#MediaToo investigation AND CROWDFUNDER
This is the start of a wider report into the toxic culture of the national media. We want to keep telling the story. Contributions to our #MediaToo crowdfunder will go directly to funding our journalism.
Wootton wrote: “I was executive editor of The Sun at that point and had spoken to eight household name ITV stars who were raising concerns about Phillip’s ‘toxic’ behaviour, specifically the inappropriate relationship with the man.”
Wootton went on: “Phillip clearly knew the story wasn’t going away… [hence] his decision to come out on the This Morning sofa.”
The matter of Schofield’s outing came to a head after the National Television Awards on 28 January 2020. At the event, Wootton talked extensively to the man Schofield had been in a relationship with.
This was quickly followed by the commencement of negotiations between The Sun’s then incoming editor-in-chief Victoria Newton and representatives for Schofield from his former agents James Grant management.
With little choice but to engage with the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, Schofield agreed a deal to first tell This Morning’s viewers he was gay on 7 February, before giving an exclusive interview to the newspaper. In return, The Sun left out the detail of Schofield’s relationship with the younger man.
Choosing his words, Schofield announced: “The thing is, you know this has been bothering me for a very long time, everybody does these things at their own speed, when they think the time is right. It has consumed my head, and has become an issue in my head.”
He added: “This is my decision. This is my decision. This is absolutely my decision. It was something I knew that I had to do.”
A month after Schofield went public, in March 2020, Wootton briefly hit out on Twitter (now ‘X’) at suggestions online that he’d had a hand in the events, before then deleting his tweets.
He tweeted to his 500,000-plus followers that he had never even spoken to ITV about Schofield’s sexuality, saying he would not ever play even a minor role in ‘outing’ anyone.
Despite Wootton’s claims that he would “never out someone or assist in it”, the Schofield incident is one of a number of occasions in which the journalist was involved in revealing men in public life to be gay – which Byline Times will be addressing in forthcoming parts of its special investigation.
‘He Really Started Pursuing Stories About Phillip Schofield’
This newspaper can also reveal new insights into Wootton’s controversial departure in November 2019 from his role, after 10 years, as a showbiz reporter for ITV’s daytime show Lorraine.
In the same 27 May MailOnline article, Wootton said he quit because of pressure from ITV chiefs not to write about Schofield’s private life or make “any negative commentary” about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
He insisted he told a very senior ITV executive to “stick her derisory offer… [and] report on the growing civil war at This Morning because that was the right thing to do.”
However, Byline Times can also reveal that there was no renewal of Wootton’s contract for three other reasons – a planned reduction in his broadcasting time, concerns over the leaking of stories about ITV to The Sun – his then-employer, and a souring relationship with ITV management.
A television source said: “Dan was very vocal about his feelings there. While it was never formally established for certain, there was a concern at ITV about certain stories appearing in The Sun and their origin.
“Dan also expressed his ambitions to be more than just a showbusiness contributor, and saw himself as the right material to become an anchor and a presenter. When in 2019 ITV made the decision to reduce Dan’s role on Lorraine, to make space for fresh talent, Dan was very upset about it.
“After the decision was made for him to leave, he really started pursuing stories about Phillip Schofield.”
In the weeks after his final appearance on Lorraine on 4 November 2019, Wootton reported a number of negative Sun stories about ITV, including its perceived ‘below par’ treatment of on-air talent Alastair Stewart, Jason Gardiner, Jeremy Kyle, and the late Caroline Flack.
He also wrote scathingly about Schofield, claiming on 6 December 2019 that the veteran was in the middle of a ‘civil war’ at This Morning, with “presenters unhappy about the host’s attitude behind the scenes”, and hinting at his relationship with the young colleague.
The article read: “We have learned Phillip’s PA and personal runner – a male in his twenties – left This Morning to work on Loose Women, despite a previous close friendship with him. ITV say he was promoted.”
It quoted a source on the show as saying: “It was odd because they were so close and then he… went to Loose Women and they didn’t seem to be talking much anymore.”
When Schofield finally quit ITV earlier this year, Wootton wrote at length for MailOnline, and devoted significant portions of his GB News show, about Schofield’s alleged (and denied) workplace ‘bullying’ – including a much-publicised extended interview with his fellow former This Morning host, Eamonn Holmes.
It was this perceived ‘hypocrisy’ that led a number of people alleging that they were victims of Wootton as a workplace bully himself, as well a serial catfisher, to come forward and speak to this newspaper about his public and private conduct.
They included an ex-adult entertainer who says Wootton employed him to help dupe men online, of sexual interest to Wootton, into physical meetings and then to secretly record the liaisons on cameras Wootton supplied.
Byline Times has reported extensively on how Wootton also used several pseudonyms, most notably ‘Martin Branning’ and ‘Maria Joseph’, to catfish friends and journalistic colleagues into providing sexually explicit content.
This newspaper has put these allegations to Dan Wootton via his solicitor, who has declined to comment. While Wootton denies any criminality, he has never denied being, or being connected to, ‘Martin Branning’ or ‘Maria Joseph’.
An ITV spokesperson said that “due to the ongoing external review by Jane Mulcahy KC” into Phillip Schofield’s departure from This Morning, “it would not be appropriate for ITV to comment at this time”.
A spokesperson for Phillip Schofield declined to comment.
Dan Evans and Tom Latchem are former colleagues of Dan Wootton’s from the News of the World. None of the sources in this investigation have been paid for their testimony
Do you have any information for Byline Times’ special investigation? Get in touch confidentially by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org