‘I’m a moron’ Claudia Winkleman apologises to Kristina Rihanoff over false Ben Cohen claim

‘I’m a moron’ Claudia Winkleman apologises to Kristina Rihanoff over false Ben Cohen claim

June 24, 2022

The One Show: Claudia Winkleman 'gives away' Strictly rumour

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Claudia Winkleman, 50, had enraged Kristina Rihanoff, 44, by publicly claiming that she and England rugby star Ben Cohen, 43, became romantically involved while they were partnered on the show in 2013. It was revealed that Claudia had apologised after saying “The couple I knew had got together were Ben and Kristina” while filming The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan on Channel 4 at Television Centre on Monday.

Kristina, who was born in Vladivostok, Russia, and Ben have always insisted that their relationship did not begin until the year after he took part in Strictly.

The World Cup winner had been married to his wife Abby for 11 years prior to his romance with the pro dancer. The couple, who have twin teenage girls, divorced in 2016. Kristina and Ben have since had a daughter together.

After Kristina learned of what she described as Winkleman’s “lies” on the Channel 4 show, she threatened to take legal action and contacted the 50-year-old presenter.  

As a result, Claudia made a grovelling apology to her and Cohen, telling them: “[I] am so, so sorry.” In a message seen by the Richard Kay column, she explained: “I thought the question was about who has found long-time love [via Strictly].

“I said, ‘Ben and Kristina’, excitedly, and then I said Stacey and Kevin [referring to TV presenter Stacey Dooley and former Strictly pro Kevin Clifton, who have been dating since 2019, after being paired together on the show in 2018].”

She continued: “So sorry, I’m a moron. It was a two-second moment.”

A Channel 4 spokesman reportedly failed to respond when approached by MailOnline’s requests for comment.

Express.co.uk has contacted the broadcaster for comment. 

Ben’s ex-wife Abby, meanwhile, has been vocal about the alleged betrayal she went through with Ben.

Having split from him in 2014, she claimed to The Sun On Sunday a year later: “My husband, who I was with for 23 years, unconditionally loved and was completely loyal to in every respect, has left me for a f***ing Russian dancer.

“The last two years have been the most traumatic thing to ever happen to me. He’s done the dirty on me. I want people to know.

“I’m not healed, I’ll never get over it but you just have to, I spent four years moping around crying – it’s poisonous.

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“I don’t think I’m ever going to get over it. But I’m taking a new path.”

In 2021 Abby expressed remorse over her comments about Kristina. 

Abby claimed that despite feeling that Strictly caused the breakdown of their marriage, she feels the show “did her a favour” in hindsight.

Abby told New! magazine: “At the time of the break-up, when hugely stressed, I once angrily referred to Ben’s partner as a ‘f***ing Russian dancer’ to a journalist hassling me. I regret that now.”

Opening up about watching her marriage “disintegrate” before her eyes, Abby – who fell in love with Ben after meeting him aged just 16 – explained: “I sat in the [Strictly] studio audience each week smiling, but looking back, I see I was terrified.

She added: “Thankfully, I don’t recognise that frightened woman now, I’m so different. Perhaps Strictly did me a favour in the long run.”

While admitting that she won’t be watching Strictly this year as “even the music triggers too many feelings”, Abby also made sure to stress that Ben “was and still is a fantastic hands-on father”.

Revealing that the news Ben and Kristina were expecting a child of their own felt “like a dagger” when it broke in 2016, Abby bravely added that “she couldn’t imagine going through this hell” but insisted “if I can, anyone can”.

She also shared that she was unable to eat, sleep or “get out of bed” when her and Ben’s marriage ended and suffered two mental breakdowns.

Looking to the future, Abby – who has since found love with her partner Dave – gushed that she is ready for her next chapter.

Before dating Ben, Kristina was in a four-year romance with former celebrity Strictly dance partner, Joe Calzaghe, from 2009-2013. 

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