Holly Willoughby issued a statement about former co-presenter Phillip Schofield as she returned to This Morning's sofa today after a two-week break.


The long-time face of the daytime show hasn't been seen on screen since Schofield's sudden exit, which came shortly before news broke that he had previously had an affair with a younger colleague.

In her absence, Dermot O'Leary and Alison Hammond have been presenting the programme, with the latter tipped as the favourite to take Schofield's place on the sofa. Today, Willoughby was back with co-host Josie Gibson.

As today's show got under way, Willoughby addressed the situation head-on while fighting back tears, saying: "Hi there, good morning. Josie, thank you for being here. Right, deep breath. Firstly, are you OK? I hope so. 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 well-being of people on all sides of what's been going on, 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 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 well-being for everyone. I hope that as we start this new chapter and get back to a place of warmth and magic that the show holds for all of us, we can find strength in each other.

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"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, Alison, Craig and every single person that works on this show will continue to work hard every single to day to bring you the show that we love. So on that note, Josie..."

They then hugged and Josie added: "All we can do now is be the family that we are."

The statement follows a tumultuous period for This Morning, which has included reports of it facing the axe and uncertainty over how best to address the developing story, with the latter bringing Hammond to tears last week.

Previously, Willoughby 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."

In a statement last month confirming that he had stepped back from his roles at ITV, Schofield described his affair as "unwise but not illegal" and apologised for misleading friends, family and work colleagues.

Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on This Morning.
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on This Morning. Jon Gorrigan/ITV

"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," he said.

"I did have a consensual on-off relationship with a younger male colleague at This Morning. 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 just a friendship.

"That relationship was unwise, but not illegal. It is now over."

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In an interview with the BBC's Amol Rajan last week, Schofield addressed concerns about a possible abuse of power in his relationship with the colleague.

"I understand that, and it's a very valid question to put to me," he said. "If it's an abuse of power, it's not in my nature to be that person, but of course it could be perceived as that. But that wasn't how it felt at the time."

Willoughby and Schofield have become one of television's best-known duos over the past decade, hosting both This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but their relationship was reported to have become strained in the weeks before Schofield's departure.

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