Holly Willoughby was “shaken” and “troubled” by her former co-host Phillip Schofield’s admission that he lied about an affair with a This Morning employee, the TV presenter has said.
The 42-year-old made her return to the popular ITV daytime show on Monday 5 June, two weeks after Schofield, 61, resigned from the programme.
Schofield stepping down was initially believed to be the result of a growing feud with Willoughby, with whom he had presented This Morning for the past 14 years. However, days after he quit the programme, he sensationally admitted to lying about having an affair with a much younger male employee.
He was subsequently dropped by his agent, YMU, and resigned from ITV altogether.
Willoughby has not been seen on the ITV programme since Thursday 18 May, two days before Schofield’s departure from the show was announced, as she was on a scheduled holiday for half term.
Flanked by the show’s occasional co-presenter Josie Gibson, she appeared to fight back tears as she acknowledged the “strange” sensation of being back on the sofa without Schofield.
“I imagine that you might be 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,” she began.
“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. 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.”
Willoughby rounded off her statement by thanking viewers for their kindness and support.
In interviews about the scandal, Schofield stressed that Willoughby was not aware of the relationship and said that he had sent her an apology for lying about it.
Willoughby first commented on the furore in an Instagram Story last week, revealing she had confronted Schofield after hearing rumours of the affair.
“When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not,” she wrote.
“It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.”
On Friday’s edition of the programme (2 June), co-presenter Alison Hammond broke down when discussing Schofield’s interviews.
“I’m just finding it really painful,” she told co-host Dermot O’Leary. “Obviously, I loved Phillip Schofield and it’s weird because I still love Phillip Schofield.
“However, what he’s done is wrong. He’s admitted it, he’s said sorry. As a family, we’re all really struggling to process everything.”
Elsewhere, other public figures have weighed in on Schofield’s conduct as well as the public’s treatment of the presenter in recent weeks.
ITV has yet to confirm a permanent co-host for Willoughby. This Morning is scheduled to air each day from 10am Monday to Friday.