TV presenters Ant and Dec have been forced to deny they’re gay in a bid to rescue their faltering career in America.
The Geordie duo discussed their sexuality on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live show.
Ant put his arm around Dec and insisted: “We are not together like that.”
Then he shook his pal’s hand and added: “We’re together like this.”
Bosses at the network are alarmed at dismal ratings for Ant and Dec’s new primetime series Wanna Bet? which is attracting just 3.4 million viewers, making it 89th in the US ratings.
They have also been shocked by calls from US fans who assume they’re gay because of their camp performances as co-hosts.
That belief was reinforced when one of their first star panellists on the gambling show was veteran actor George Takei, 71, who starred as Sulu in the original Star Trek series.
He is due to wed his boyfriend of 21 years in California next month.
Rumours about Ant and Dec’s sexuality have been rife on the internet ever since Wanna Bet? was launched.
One blogger wrote: “What delicious Brits! Wanna bet they have fun together?”
Another said: “How refreshing to see two gay guys hosting a mainstream network show. They’re so cute.”
ABC spokesman said: “Ant and Dec have made their position very clear on Jimmy Kimmel and there’s nothing we would want to add.”
But a network executive is reported by the Daily Star to have said:
“It might help haul ratings out of a hole if they were gay. At least it would give them a niche market.”
The pair, both 32, who have worked together since they were 13, were further embarrassed during their brief appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Kimmel made them watch “vox pop” interviews with expat Brits in Hollywood – and none of them had heard of Ant and Dec or Wanna Bet?
A source close to Ant, who celebrated his second anniversary with wife Lisa last month, said:
“It’s kind of weird for them not to be recognised. Few people in Hollywood have heard of them.”
The pair, also known as Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, are among the biggest TV stars in the UK. They present I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent.