Holly Willoughby has made an emotional return to This Morning, saying she felt “shaken, troubled, let down and worried” about the events that led to Phillip Schofield’s departure from the ITV programme.
Willoughby appeared on screen for the first time following the shock departure of her former co-host Schofield and his subsequent revelation of an affair with a younger ITV male employee.
Seated next to her temporary co-host Josie Gibson, Willoughby said: “Josie, thank you for being here. Right, deep breath.”
She continued: “Firstly, are you OK? I hope so. It feels very strange indeed sitting here without Phil. And I imagine that you might have been feeling a lot like I have – shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the wellbeing of people on all sides of what’s been going on, and full of questions.”
During interviews last week, Schofield told The Sun and the BBC that Willoughby did not know about the “unwise, but not illegal” affair, and has apologised for lying to her.
Dressed in a sleeveless white buttoned dress, Willoughby continued: “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.
“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.”
Schofield has spoken about the toll the fallout of the scandal has had on his mental health, telling The Sun it has had a “catastrophic effect” on his mind and he is currently getting by “hour by hour”.
In a statement she wrote herself, Willoughby thanked viewers for their support, saying: “I hope that as we start this new chapter, and get back to a place of warmth and magic that this show holds for all of us, we can find strength in each other.
“And from my heart, can I just say thank you for all of your kind messages and thank you for being here this morning.
“Myself, Josie, Dermot (O’Leary), Alison (Hammond), Craig (Doyle), and every single person that works on this show will continue to work hard every single day to bring you that, this show that we love.”
Former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes and the show’s former resident doctor Dr Ranj Singh have both separately made allegations about the culture behind the scenes at the programme in the wake of Schofield’s departure.
ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has been called to a parliamentary committee on June 14 to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling following Schofield’s exit.
An overnight report in The Sun suggested Schofield indicated he would not be watching Willoughby’s return to screen, with a friend telling the publication he “physically could not watch — he’s not there yet”.