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Ant and Dec’s biggest controversies – voting scandal to drink-drive arrest

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly are preparing to add another Bafta Award to their bulging collection, but in-amongst their success lie some controversies that have threatened to derail their squeaky clean reputation

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Ant and Dec dress up in drag for the ‘end of the show show’

Ant and Dec might be the nation’s favorite television duo, but the loveable pair haven’t been without the odd scandal over their year three decades in the business.

Perhaps the most notable incident in the Britain’s Got Talent presenters’ career took place in 2018, when Ant McPartlin pleaded guilty to drink driving following a multi-car collision in London.

He was fined £86,000 before checking himself into rehab for the second time in two years.

Despite the scandal, Ant managed to successfully move on from his demons and rejoin best pal Dec in fronting their primetime hit TV shows.

Just weeks after the arrest, the pair were nominated for Best Entertainment Program at the 2018 Baftas – which they went on to win.

The enduring pair are hoping to add to the collection with their 19th BAFTA on Sunday, May 8.

They have already received 18 BAFTAs and an impressive 123 awards in total across television.

Ant and Dec have been presenting Saturday Night Takeaway together since 2002


Kieron McCarron/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

But that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from the occasional scandal.

black face

During an undercover segment for Saturday Night Takeaway, the pair dressed up in blackface as two fictional Jamaican women, Patty and Bernice.

The practice involves white people using make-up to look like a black person.

Ant and Dec used exaggerated accents to prank cast members of British soap opera, Emmerdale, in a scene at the Woolpack Pub.

Ant and Dec used prosthetics and blackface to dress as Jamaican women | Ant and Dec – blackface – ITV



Then, in 2004 they donned the outfits of Japanese schoolgirls for a similar prank on the cast of Coronation Street.

They played fake characters Suki and Kaiko, and used Asian accents to profess their love for the character of Todd Grimshaw, played by Bruno Langley.

In another elaborate prank targeted at Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, the boys dressed as Arabian men.

Ant wore a keffiyeh and traditional Arabic clothing as he attempted to trick Burrell with Dec by his side dressed up as the prince’s servant Saleem.

Speaking in a joint statement in 2020, the pair said they would not make those sketches today and had requested ITV to remove them from their streaming catch-up service and YouTube channel.

Ant dressed in traditional Arab clothing during a prank

“During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway we impersonated people of color in the Undercover segment of the show.

“We realize that this was wrong and want to say that we are sincerely sorry to everyone that we offended.

“We purposely stopped doing this several years ago and certainly would not make these sketches today.

“We had already taken steps to ensure footage was taken down and have again recently confirmed with ITV that these segments, and any other historical content that could cause offence, does not appear on either the ITV Hub or the Saturday Night Takeaway YouTube Channel.”

Ant and Dec have had a long history of making people laugh on TV, often at the expense of others

award blunder

In 2005, TV regulator Ofcom imposed an £80,000 fine on ITV after a prize-fix incident at the British Comedy Awards which wrongly named Ant and Dec as the People’s Choice winners.

The pair were given their award in 2005, even though the Catherine Tate Show received the highest number of votes.

They returned the award in 2008 and it was sent to Catherine Tate.

Ant and Dec were said to be ‘completely appalled’ by the error.

phone vote scandal

In a scandal which took place off-screen, Saturday Night Takeaway and gameshow Marathon was investigated by auditors.

Soon after, it was found that both programs had fraudulent viewers that phoned in for their competitions. Saturday Night Takeaway had been selecting finalists before the voting had closed and selecting finalists based on their suitability to be on TV.

Ant and Dec issued a public apology and donated all the profits from the following series to charity, as well as repaying calling viewers.

This came to an estimated cost of £18 million.

drink drive charge

Ant was charged with drink driving and banned from driving for 20 months



Ant faced the lowest moment in his career so far when he was charged with drink-driving in 2018 following a multi-car collision in London. His mother was a passenger in the car.

Ant said at the time: “I let myself down, I let a lot of people down. For that I’m truly sorry.”

He pleaded guilty, was fined £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban before checking himself into rehab for the second time, where he stayed for four weeks.

In the aftermath of the smash, Ant stepped down from Saturday Night Takeaway mid series – forcing Dec to go it alone for the first time in their TV careers and calling in Holly Willoughby to replace Ant on I’m A Celebrity later in the year.

During his first solo show, Dec quipped: “I’ve got twice the amount of work to do so we’re going to crack on.”

Fortunately, the pair were soon reunited, back on screen together to host Britain’s Got Talent in 2019.

drag performance

The drag performance received 59 Ofcom complaints



While many viewers were delighted with a drag performance during the ‘end of the show show’ during an episode of Saturday Night Takeaway, the segment touched a nerve for some 59 people, who complained about the feature to Ofcom.
It included cameos from all three Drag Race UK winners.

The 2022 British Academy Television Award will take place at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Sunday, May 8 and will be televised on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

Do you have a favorite Ant and Dec moment from throughout the years? We want to hear about it! Let us know in the comments.


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