Melanie Sykes has said she broke down in tears after Leigh Francis made ‘insulting comments’ towards her while in character as Keith Lemon.
The TV presenter, 50, claimed on Saturday she flagged the insults to the production firm Talkback while she was a panellist on ITV’s game show Through The Keyhole in 2018.
Talking candidly on the Frankly Speaking with Lynne Franks podcast, she said the Keith Lemon character ‘gives voice to men in the street, men in the office, men in your home, to talk to women like sh*t and think it’s funny’.
Tough: Melanie Sykes has said she broke down in tears after Leigh Francis made insulting comments towards her while in character as Keith Lemon
Recalling her traumatic ordeal, Melanie said: ‘I’d been on holiday and I was happy and relaxed.
‘I went into the studio and I didn’t think Keith was going to be like he was on the other show that he does [Celebrity Juice] where it’s all sex and bl*w jobs and talking about people’s a**holes and all that.
‘I sat there for a three-hour record and he did all of that stuff to me verbally to entertain the live audience — because it was never going to make the edit of the show, because it was a family, Saturday night show, so he used me to entertain the audience.
‘I had Jonathan Ross to my right and Ashley Banjo to my left and the first thing that Keith said to me, in character: ‘I bet your a**hole smells of flowers’.’
‘He gives voice to men who talk to women like sh*t’: The TV presenter claimed on Saturday she flagged the insults while she was a panellist on ITV’s game show Through The Keyhole in 2018
She continued: ‘It makes me want to cry right now because I was so caught in the headlights and wasn’t expecting it.
‘It went from bad to worse, I kept thinking ‘What am I going to do?’
‘I can’t get up and storm out because it will be all over the newspapers that I’ve walked out and it will of course be my fault, everybody in the audience has a mobile phone so they could see.
‘So, for three hours, I struggled through that. I got home and I cried all night and I rang my agent in the morning and told him.’
‘I sat there for a three-hour record and he did all of that stuff to me verbally to entertain the live audience,’ Mel recalled (pictured Mel and Leigh as Keith Lemon on Lets Do Lunch in 2014)
Mel then rang the head of the production company Talkback who allegedly weren’t receptive to her complaint.
Relaying their reaction, Mel said: ‘She said: ‘you’re the first person that’s ever complained about him’. I said, ‘I don’t care’ and this was before MeToo.’
Leigh Francis, as Keith Lemon, had hosted Through The Keyhole for six seasons until it was cancelled in 2020.
‘You’re the first person that’s ever complained about him’: Leigh Francis, as Keith Lemon, had hosted Through The Keyhole for six seasons until it was cancelled in 2020
The comedy character has also hosted ITV2’s Celebrity Juice for 25 series since it started in 2008.
Reflecting on the ‘brazen way’ men speak to her, Mel added: I don’t know whether it’s because I’m Northern, down-to-earth because what ignited my fame was a commercial for beer.
‘I want respect, I deserve respect, I respect everybody else,’ she added.
MailOnline has contacted Leigh Francis’ and Through The Keyhole representatives for comment.
‘I want respect, I deserve respect, I respect everybody else’: Reflecting on the brazen way men speak to her, Mel questioned whether her down-to-earth attitude made her a target
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