Holly Willoughby Feels "Shaken, Troubled, Let Down" In the Wake of Phillip Schofield Scandal
Content warning: This post contains a text description of suicidal thoughts.
It's been a tumultuous time for ITV over the past few weeks. Since Phillip Schofield sensationally revealed he would be leaving "This Morning", the show he fronted for 20 years, followed by a statement about an affair with a younger male colleague while on the show, speculation surrounding the programme's future has been rife. His cohost, and close friend, Holly Willoughby had only made a very short comment on the revelations via Instagram, with Schofield maintaining that she didn't know of the workplace relationship. As she returned to the "This Morning" sofa on 5 June following a half-term break, she personally addressed the turn of events live on ITV for the first time.
"Firsty, are you ok? I hope so," a visibly emotional Willoughby began. "It feels very strange indeed to be sitting here without Phil, I imagine you've 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." Sitting next to her cohost for the day, Josie Gibson, she continued: "You, me, and everyone 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."
Taking a deep breath, Willoughby told viewers that the show would continue with a new chapter. "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. 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, Demot, Alison, Craig, and every single person that works on this show will continue to work hard every single day to bring you the show that we love, so on that note Josie…" Gibson then embraced Willoughby in a hug before they kicked off the rest of the show.
Willoughby's personal statement come after Schofield took part in an interview with both BBC News and The Sun to discuss lead up and aftermath of him quitting ITV. Sitting down with Amol Rajan on 2 June, Schofield said he has "lost everything" since the news broke, and also added more detail about the affair, which he called "unwise."
Schofield said that after being asked to open a drama school, he first met the man in question when he was 15 and Schofield, now 61, was in his 50s. He claimed that there were no improper relations at the time. Their relationship escalated when the man was around 20 and joined "This Morning", Schofield detailed. "He'd been working at the show for a few months and we'd become mates, we were mates. Around the studios we'd hang out together, chat to each other, that sort of stuff," he claimed. "And then in my dressing room one day something happened which obviously, I will regret forever for him and for me - mostly him." The name of the man involved has not been revealed publicly.
Image Source: BBC
In addition to speaking about the affair, Schofield also addressed the end of his TV career, which he said has led to him have suicidal thoughts. He even compared the social media response he's experienced to that of the late Caroline Flack, who died by suicide in 2020. "How much do you want a man to take and are you truly only happy when he's dead? This is how Caroline Flack felt," he said.
Schofield credited his daughters, Molly, 30, and Ruby, 27, for their support over the last few tumultuous weeks during the BBC interview. "My girls saved my life," he said. "Last week, if my daughters hadn't been there, I wouldn't be here. They've been by my side every moment because they're scared to let me out of their sight. What is that like for daughters to have to go with something like that?"
The now-former TV presenter also claimed he has not heard from Willoughby, since the news broke. Following Schofield's initial statement, she wrote a short Instagram Story on 27 May, saying: "It's taken time to process yesterday's news. 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 was a lie."
Schofield added that he kept his relationship from his friend. "Holly knows everything about me, I know everything about Holly. Holly did not know. Nobody knew. I didn't tell anybody." "I WhatsApped her on the day I put out the statement. I said, 'You don't have to reply, you probably can't, but I want to say I'm desperately, desperately sorry,'" he said. POPSUGAR reached out to reps for Willoughby and ITV but did not immediately receive a response.
Schofield announced he would be leaving the show with immediate effect on 20 May, and days later, on 26 May, he released a further statement detailing the impetus for his resignation.
In a statement given to The Daily Mail, Schofield apologised for misleading the publication and his lawyer about a story that had been due to run concerning his personal life. "The first thing I want to say is: I am deeply sorry for having lied to them, and to many others about a relationship that I had with someone working on This Morning. I did have a consensual on-off relationship with a younger male colleague at This Morning," he wrote.
Schofield spoke out after ongoing scrutiny concerning the unnamed former colleague in question. "Contrary to speculation, whilst I met the man when he was a teenager and was asked to help him to get into television, it was only after he started to work on the show that it became more than a just a friendship. That relationship was unwise, but not illegal. It is now over…"
He was still due to present the Soap Awards and told fans last week that he had a primetime TV show in the works. He later resigned from both projects, giving thanks to the network for the "amazing opportunities" he had been given in his career.
"I am painfully conscious that I have lied to my employers at ITV, to my colleagues and friends, to my agents, to the media and therefore the public and most importantly of all to my family. I am so very, very sorry, as I am for having been unfaithful to my wife…" Schofield, who came out as gay in a live interview on "This Morning" in February 2020, said.
Schofield explained that the man in question was being impacted, and he felt the need to be honest. "I will reflect on my very bad judgement in both participating in the relationship and then lying about it," he continued. Schofield ended the statement by asking for privacy going forward.
YMU Agency, who had represented Schofield, also released a statement on 27 May explaining that they have parted ways with the broadcaster.
An ITV spokesperson added on 26 May: "We are deeply disappointed by the admissions of deceit made tonight by Phillip Schofield. The relationships we have with those we work with are based on trust. Phillip made assurances to us which he now acknowledges were untrue and we feel badly let down. We accept his resignation from ITV and therefore can confirm that he will not be appearing on ITV as had previously been stated."
Following his public departure, the spotlight has been on "This Morning" and the behind the scenes working environment. Dr Ranj, who worked on the show for over 10 years, posted on Instagram that he had concerns about the way people were being treated. "I even took my concerns directly to the top of ITV: the culture at This Morning had become toxic, no longer aligned with ITV values, and I felt like because I whistle-blew I was managed out." An ITV spokesperson said last month that an independent review was carried out after Dr Ranj's complaint, but "the external review found no evidence of bullying or discrimination."