Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby presented This Morning together for 14 years, but now following Schofield’s admission of an affair with a younger colleague, he has stepped away from both the show and ITV.
By Bethany Minelle, Arts & Entertainment reporter @BethanyMinelle
Holly Willoughby has said she felt “let down” as she made her first This Morning appearance since her former co-presenter Phillip Schofield resigned over an “unwise, but not illegal” relationship with a younger man.
As she returned to screens after two weeks away, she said she felt “shaken, troubled, let down” and “worried for the wellbeing of people on all sides of what’s been going on”.
“We have given our love and support to someone not telling the truth,” she added.
Schofield, 61, resigned from ITV last month over the affair and has since insisted he “did not” groom the man, who also worked on the show, and who the presenter said was 20 years old when their relationship began.
Willoughby began Monday’s show with the emotional statement delivered straight to camera, while holding hands with co-presenter Josie Gibson.
The 42-year-old began with the words, “Right, deep breath,” and went on to say: “It feels very strange sitting here without Phil.”
She acknowledged that viewers would be “full of questions,” adding: “You, me and all of us at This Morning gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth, who acted in a way that they themselves felt that they had to resign from ITV, and step down from a career that they loved. That is a lot to process.”
While she did not mention Schofield by name again, she directed one more point towards him, continuing: “And it’s equally hard to see the toll that it’s taken on their own mental health. I think what unites us all now is a desire to heal for the health and wellbeing of everyone.”
Holly Willoughby’s This Morning statement in full
Phillip Schofield: Timeline of ITV departure
Looking ahead to a “new chapter” for the show, she said she hoped “we can find strength in each other” and thanked viewers for their support, “from my heart”.
Following her statement, Gibson reached across and gave her a big hug, saying: “All we can do now is be the family that we are.”
Willoughby also mentioned other members of the This Morning team, Dermot O’Leary, Alison Hammond, and Craig Doyle – who is understood to be co-presenting alongside her on Tuesday.
A reinvention: Holly Willoughby’s ‘new chapter’
More eyes than usual were on the recently updated opening credits of This Morning today, with viewers curious to see if Holly Willoughby would be on the sofa as planned, following an early half-term break, scheduled to sidestep the scandal that has turned the mid-morning show into front page news over the last fortnight.
The 42-year-old presenter did indeed return, dressed in white, and with just a touch of the bronzed glow you’d expect from a week away in Portugal. Sat alongside her co-host for today – Josie Gibson – she kicked off the programme with a carefully measured, and emotional statement.
Mentioning her co-host of 14-years by name only once (“It feels very strange indeed sitting here without Phil”), she spoke directly to camera, aligning herself with the viewers who she said might be feeling much like her – “shaken, troubled, let down”.
Further references to Schofield were limited to the somewhat damning, “someone who was not telling the truth” and a nod to the “toll” the entire situation has taken on “their own mental health”. Throughout she was clear that Schofield was the author of his own demise.
Neatly separating herself from Schofield, Willoughby went on to group herself with the ongoing roster of presenters currently tasked with taking the show forward – Josie Gibson, Dermot O’Leary, Alison Hammond and Craig Doyle.
Hugging and hand-holding aside, the short and swift monologue was intended to tidily put the indiscretions of the show’s former star aside, and carry forward what Willoughby called the “warmth and magic” of the programme itself.
With more details of Scofield’s affair imminent (ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall is due to face questions in parliament over the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and handling complaints next Wednesday), the This Morning team are clearly hoping to draw a sharp line between the show and its former golden boy.
It’s a particularly tricky line for Willoughby to navigate – having spent a large part of her very successful career as Schofield’s breakfast TV wife.
The presenter will be hoping her statement this morning will not only be the start of a “a new chapter” for the show, but also a re-invention of Holly Willoughby – the This Morning presenter. Newly solo, but clearly ready for the fight to continue her sparkling TV career.
Willoughby’s return to the show comes after she hit out at her former co-host and accused him of lying to her over his affair.
In a statement last week she said: “When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not.
“It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.”
Speaking to Sky News outside the High Court following Willoughby’s statement, Schofield’s lawyer Jonathan Coad, described the recent media attention around the presenter and his departure from the show, and clarified the part he plays in representing Schofield.
Mr Coad told Sky News: “My role was very simple, and that’s to get the truth out on Phillip’s behalf. There has been an awful lot of bad stuff about Phillip in the media which isn’t true, which I know because I’ve had access to all the relevant information.
“So, that’s the limit of it, getting the truth out and trying to knock out as much of the stuff which isn’t true as possible.”
Schofield has given two interviews since leaving ITV – one to the BBC and one to The Sun newspaper. In both, he insisted Willoughby did not know about the affair.
He also said he had messaged his former co-presenter since the fallout from his departure, but said she did not reply.
Last week, This Morning editor Martin Frizell told Sky News he believed “scores are being settled,” when asked about claims of a toxic culture at the ITV show.
Asked about the workplace environment again this morning, Mr Frizell rather cryptically chatted about aubergines, and then listed guests and presenters scheduled for that day’s show.
Schofield’s affair took place while the television star was still married to wife Stephanie Lowe, and before he came out publicly as gay in 2020.
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He had denied having a relationship with a colleague when questioned by ITV about rumours in early 2020.
ITV has since announced an external review of the saga led by a barrister.
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