This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
Over the past few months, three TV presenters have had their personal lives paraded in front of the public to starkly contrasting effects. The first, Philip Schofield, experienced a dramatic fall from grace after it was revealed by the Daily Mail that he’d had an “unwise, but not illegal” extramarital affair with a male ITV employee more than 30 years his junior. The revelations, he said, have cost him his career, leaving him “utterly broken”. His story was followed by the Huw Edwards scandal, first published in The Sun, which led to the former newsreader’s hospitalisation, while the latter concerned a man who has held senior roles with both the aforementioned publications, yet escaped largely unscathed by similar “errors of judgment” that were revealed about his life.
If you haven’t heard about allegations concerning Dan Wootton in the past week, don’t be surprised. The New Zealand-born columnist and broadcaster has built a career on splashing trashy celebrity gossip in tabloid newspapers, and was probably as surprised as the rest of us when he became embroiled in a scandal of his own. A three-year Byline Times investigation claimed that he used a pseudonym to offer colleagues sums of money “up to £30,000 tax-free” for sexual material, allegations he has branded as “simply untrue”. Two of the targets are even said to have made criminal complaints to Scotland Yard without knowing the real identity of their tormentor, while one journalist handed a 28-page dossier of evidence to the Metropolitan Police for investigation on 20 June 2023.
After rumours about Wootton started to emerge on social media – much like in the cases of Schofield and Edwards – Byline Times decided to publish details of their findings in the first part of a celebrity catfishing scoop that would have undoubtedly led to most celebrities being put in the stocks by the tabloid media. But in Wootton’s case, the story was largely ignored. A report by media campaigners Hacked Off found that, in contrast to the Edwards story which garnered 24 articles in the press in the first 24 hours after breaking, just one article appeared about Wootton in the same newspapers, despite the allegations being “more serious and more substantiated”, according to the group’s CEO Nathan Sparkes.
Emboldened by the lack of interest in his private life, Wootton has since launched a crowdfunder to support a legal case against Byline Times and has gone to war with the “hard left blog” which he says is out to “silence” him. There have subsequently been reports of blood being smeared on the window screens of those behind the reports and threatening phone calls to the editor and emails sent to Byline HQ. The lack of coverage, meanwhile, has persisted, suggesting the GB News man has dodged the fate suffered by Edwards and Schofield at the hands of a bloodthirsty press he was once a fabled part of.
Commenting on the matter, comedian John Cleese has urged the “mainstream press” to “check out” the allegations, saying failure to do so would be “final proof of their complete corruption.” But I’d like to offer a different prognosis that might give us all a bit of hope. Unlike Edwards, who was greatly admired for his work as a newsreader and Schofield, who did his utmost to maintain a polished public persona, Wootton was already widely disliked among vast swathes of society and probably didn’t have a fall from grace in him even if he wanted one. When the allegations about his private life came to light most people probably shrugged their shoulders and moved on, which, contrary to how it might appear, is a pretty dismal place to find yourself in if you ask me.
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