The new black presenter of ITV’s This Morning was so concerned that her promotion might be perceived as ‘tokenism’ that she initially turned down the role, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Friends of Alison Hammond, who will team up each Friday with Dermot O’Leary as replacements for Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes from January 8, say the job offer – just two months after the show’s editor Martin Frizell pledged to staff that he would appoint a black presenter – left her feeling ‘uncomfortable’.
Job offer: Alison Hammond initially turned down the chance to host ITV’s This Morning (pictured in March)
According to sources, she was happy to remain in her role as entertainment reporter, but Mr Frizell persuaded her to sign up for the bigger presenting job on the popular show. ‘Alison has been on This Morning for more than a decade and had never been offered this job before,’ said one source.
‘Then Martin makes a big announcement that he wants a black presenter and she is wanted for the role.
‘ITV decided last year they wanted diversity on their programmes and then they decided to offer the presenting job to Alison. If you look up the dictionary definition of what tokenism means, then this is it.
Replacement: She has been lined up to replace Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes who have been axe
‘Alison was happy as she was, she loved interviewing the likes of George Clooney. She is amazing at it and it was enough for her.’
The 45-year-old also felt torn about replacing Ruth, but was reassured by her close friend that she should take the job and had her blessing.
After Alison, who found fame as a contestant on Channel 4’s Big Brother, was unveiled as part of the new Friday team for the This Morning sofa earlier this month, she suffered racist trolling on social media.
In June, Mr Frizell, who is married to former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips, told staff that he intended to hire a black presenter, though admitted finding a candidate ‘won’t be easy’.
Magical: Alison starred in This Morning’s Christmas pantomime as the Fairy Godmother
On Saturday night, a spokesman for ITV and Ms Hammond said: ‘To suggest that Alison’s position on This Morning is a result of anything other than talent and popularity with viewers is completely untrue.’
Ruth and Eamonn fought back tears during their last Friday show on This Morning, and Alison took to Twitter to share a sweet message.
The presenter tweeted: ‘A class above the rest @EamonnHolmes @RuthieeL,’ followed by a heart emoji.
It was revealed on 30 November the presenters who fill in for Holly and Phillip on Fridays, had been cut from their weekly slot to be replaced with Alison and Dermot.
During their last show, Eamonn made a dig about bosses ‘getting rid’ of them during a chat about discounted trees, before the pair both grew emotional while saying goodbye.
Ruth swiftly shot down the comment and continued the show, while Eamonn took to Instagram to mark their final day with an emotional post, in which he penned: ‘Thanks for the memories, hope we made some for you too.’
In with the new: It was revealed on 30 November the presenters had been axed from their weekly slot to be replaced with Alison and Dermot (pictured in August)
He also tweeted: ‘Bye bye to you all on a Friday folks …. Hopefully see u next February for half-term This Morning. Thanks for having us and please have a safe and Merry Christmas.’
During their sign off, Eamonn said: ‘You won’t be watching us anymore on a Friday, Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary will be here on Fridays here on in….
‘Please we would ask you to be as nice and lovely to them, friends of ours as they are, we’re very close to Alison and she has been to us for the past 15 years…
‘We appreciate all of the love you have sent to us today, we send it all back to you, have a very merry Christmas, it’s been lovely having you and I think we will see everybody again.’
Ruth added: ‘We will see everybody again in February, you’ve haven’t got rid of us, we’re back for the half term. So it’s a tricky year for everybody and we hope we helped you a little bit and thank you, have a merry Christmas see you in February’.
Farewell! During their sign off, Eamonn said: ‘You won’t be watching us anymore on a Friday, Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary will be here on Fridays here on in’