“This Morning” anchor Holly Willoughby has returned to the show after a two-week absence following the resignation of her long-time co-host Phillip Schofield.
She was joined by guest anchor Josie Gibson.
Willoughby began the show by addressing the controversy that has been swirling over the last few weeks, ever since Schofield, who is married with two children, admitted he had had an affair with a young “This Morning” employee.
“Firstly, are you OK? I hope so,” Willoughby told viewers. “It feels very strange indeed sitting here without Phil. And I imagine you might be feeling a lot like I have: shaken, troubled, let down. Worried for the wellbeing on all sides of what’s been going up. And full of questions. 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 like they had to resign from ITV and step down from a career that they loved.”
“That is a lot to process,” she continued, while holding back tears. “It’s equally hard to see the toll 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 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.”
Gibson then gave Willoughby a hug before the duo moved on to breaking down the day’s segments.
Schofield resigned from the show he has hosted for over two decades on Saturday, May 20 following tabloid reports he had fallen out with Willoughby. She did not return to set on Monday, with guest anchors Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary stepping in.
The following Saturday, May 27, Schofield dropped the bombshell he had had an affair with a 20-year-old PA/runner (whom he’d known since the man was 15), a relationship he said had been “unwise but not illegal.” In a subsequent interview he admitted the affair had started in his dressing room at ITV.
Willoughby – along with ITV execs including the network’s CEO Carolyn McCall – said she had asked Schofield directly about the affair when rumors first began swirling over three years ago, but the anchor categorically denied it. However, ITV continues to face questions over how much they knew about the relationship and whether more should have been done to ensure the PA’s welfare.
The fall-out has also seen a number of former “This Morning” employees and contributors – including its former on-screen medic Dr Ranj Singh and the show’s ex-head of news Emily Maddick – slam the culture and atmosphere on the daily program, with Singh calling it “toxic” on Instagram. In an essay on Glamour U.K.’s website, meanwhile, Maddick, said she was “not allowed to communicate” directly with either Schofield or Willoughby during her time on the show.
ITV have now launched an external review led by a lawyer to look into the matter while McCall has been asked to attend a parliamentary hearing before the committee for culture, media and sport.
On Friday, Hammond and O’Leary addressed the controversy for the first time on the show, during the daily news segment, which sees “This Morning’s” hosts and guests discuss the top headlines.
“It’s the top story today and we do not want to shy away from it,” O’Leary said of the Schofield saga. “It’s obviously very difficult for us to cover this story since it’s a friend and a colleague.”
The discussion mostly focused on the upcoming external review as well as comments Schofield made in an interview last week alluding to his fragile mental state, with guest Gyles Brandreth urging “kindness” and saying he felt both empathy and sympathy for the ousted broadcaster.
Hammond, holding back tears, said: “I’m finding it really painful because obviously I loved Phillip Schofield and its weird because I still love Phillip Schofield. However what he’s done is wrong, he’s admitted it, he’s said sorry. But I’m really – I mean as a family we’re all really struggling to process everything.”
For a full timeline of the Schofield saga click here.
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