Amy Robach, T.J. Holmes and why we can't look away from the 'GMA' scandal

The "Good Morning America" drama began when "GMA3" co-hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, both married, were photographed holding hands and cozying up. Shortly after, they were swiftly sidelined – pulled off the air because their rumored romance had "become an internal and an external distraction." On Thursday, Holmes filed for divorce from his wife, according to court records obtained by USA TODAY.

Our cultural appetite for scandal is nothing new, but there's something about this particular situation that is eye-catching. The unpredictability of the "GMA3" affair is what makes it "good gossip." It involves two seemingly wholesome public figures, a multitude of incriminating photos, and victims, or in this case, family members caught in the scandal.

"We're interested in relationships, but more importantly, we're interested in the failure of relationships – especially when we watch it evolve and unfold on television right before our very eyes," says Donna Rockwell, clinical psychologist and founder of Already Famous.

Since rumors circulated last week, #gmaaffair has more than 250,000 views on TikTok. Eagle-eyed spectators have scoured the pair's social media posts (before their accounts were deactivated), with many questioning the most intimate details of their reported affair as well as the status of their marriages.

The ABC co-anchor, 45, filed a petition for divorce from immigration attorney Marilee Fiebig in New York City on Wednesday, according to court records obtained by USA TODAY.

"We are gluttons for train wrecks and car crashes. Gossip is one of humanity's favorite pastimes, and this one is a perfect invitation for that," Rockwell says. "And when the car crash has appeared on television, we become more invested."

Amy Robach, T.J. Holmes: pulled from 'GMA3' for reported affair 'distraction'.

Our connection to Amy Robach, T.J. Holmes

On-camera, Robach and Holmes appeared to have a heartwarming yet professionally platonic relationship. They've co-hosted the family-friendly program since 2020, even training together for a half-marathon.

"For the viewer who tunes in on a regular basis, 'GMA' fulfills a social role that used to be fulfilled in a face-to-face way, with the morning coffee hour with friends or the back-fence gossip session," says Gayle Stever, professor of psychology at the Empire State College/SUNY. "The casual format of this talk show encourages the illusion of intimacy, that we're all sitting around the table chatting about events of the day (with them)."

Amy Robach and TJ Holmes run during the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon on November 06, 2022 in New York
Amy Robach and TJ Holmes run during the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon on November 06, 2022 in New York

But even those who are not avid fans of "Good Morning America" or its early-afternoon iteration, "GMA3," are becoming aware of it.  One user tweeted, "idk who these people are but this seems like a fun christmastime scandal."

"never seen a single minute of gma but very invested in this cheating scandal," another user said.

Some people, Rockwell says, feel entitled to knowing every detail about a public figure's professional and personal life. Others indulge in celebrity gossip to feel better about their own lives.

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In addition, unanswered questions may play a role in this public fascination. According to Stever, people are wondering: Are these people leaving 'GMA?' 'Should they expect to leave 'GMA?' Did they violate a morality clause in their contracts?

"It all becomes very murky," she says.

'We don't care about GMA, but we love mess'

On the surface, the "GMA" drama is considered comedic fodder for millions on social media. Countless jokes and memes have poked fun at the disgraced pair: One user tweeted, "We don't care about #GMA, but we love MESS!" 

But our obsession with scandals, our entertainment derived from gossip, shows more about us than it does Robach and Holmes, experts say.

"It's sad," Rockwell says. "We live in a social media age where all the details are coming out, more layers keep getting added to the story… drawing people in with little regard for the real-life families and children involved."

Even when it comes to celebrities or TV personalities, our attitudes about gossip need to change. Otherwise, we're normalizing a culture of judgment rather than "compassion, empathy and respect for one's privacy," Rockwell says.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Robach, T.J. Holmes and the 'GMA' affair mess: Why we're hooked