Holly Willoughby is said to be nervous about returning to This Morning today – and will be ‘kind’ about Phillip Schofield – but her former co-star won’t be watching, it has emerged.
The mother-of-three has been away for a fortnight, including a half term break to Portugal, but will present the hit show with Josie Gibson from 10am.
A source close to Willoughby has claimed that she feels that she has faced ‘undeserved’ pressure over the scandal, which saw Schofield, once her best friend, quit in disgrace over an affair with a producer 34 years his junior.
‘She’s going to be kind about Phillip. And then her whole thing is going to be about “steadying the ship” and taking care of the This Morning family’, an insider told The Times.
Another source said: ‘Expect an outpouring of emotion as she returns, and a lot of tears and hugs.’
But friends of Phillip Schofield, who has spent time with his mother Pat in Cornwall, say he won’t tune in to watch her return to the This Morning sofa today as it would be too ‘triggering’ for him, especially the opening credits he featured in for more than two decades. Mr Schofield has said he has been left suicidal over his fall from grace and revealed that Holly had not replied to his text where he asked for her forgiveness.
Phillip Schofield won’t watch Holly Willoughby’s return to the This Morning sofa today after he was axed from the show. Pictured: The pair presenting the show in May
Big day: It comes as Holly prepares an ‘honest and personal statement’ to address the departure of her former co-star, who recently admitted he had lied about an affair with a younger male colleague, as she returns to the programme (pictured in Portugal this week)
Phillip Schofield was pictured embracing his mother Pat in Newquay, Cornwall, moments after being told bosses at ITV wanted him to leave This Morning
Schofield apologised to Holly Willoughby, who presented This Morning with him for 14 years, for lying about his secret relationship with his colleague (centre) and for tainting her public image
His former boss Martin Frizell, the This Morning editor, told Sky News over the that he had not presided over a toxic culture. ‘I think you have got to read between the lines, I think some scores are being settled,’ he said.
While Lorraine Heggessey, a former BBC1 controller, said: They’re all under the spotlight. They’ve lost a friend or colleague, and the whole ethos of the programme is under pressure. It’s very tricky.’
Allies of 61-year-old Schofield, who left after revelations he had lied about an affair with male colleague, say even watching the opening credits could prove too distressing for him as he comes to terms with leaving the show he had fronted since 2002.
It comes as Holly returns to the This Morning sofa later today with questions being asked over whether she will mention her former co-host’s name while she delivers an ‘honest personal statement’ about the scandal.
Insiders claim she is ‘apprehensive’ about getting back in front of the camera, but is ‘determined to steer the show through these unprecedented times’ that have engulfed one of the channel’s most popular programmes.
Nearly one million people could tune in to watch her return to the couch alongside Josie Gibson after Schofield revealed she had ignored his texts to her begging for forgiveness.
Holly, who was on holiday with her family in Portugal last week, is believed to have written the speech herself and emotions are set to run high when she reads it out live on air.
A source told the Mirror: ‘She was naturally apprehensive about getting back after her extended break. So much has happened and it’s been one storm after another.
‘But she needn’t worry as the team are behind her.
‘Everyone is desperately hoping her speech draws a line under the matter, at least until the barrister-led review comes back
‘Expect an outpouring of emotion as she returns, and a lot of tears and hugs.’
A source close to the star told the Mail: ‘Holly’s return is a signal that she is determined to steer the show through these unprecedented times. Her priority is now to make the programme for the viewers watching at home. It’s a new chapter for her but also for the fans.
‘She knows how she addresses the situation is really important for them so she has asked several people for their thoughts so she can make sure it is absolutely right.
‘But how to deal with the issue of Phil, his departure from the show and his relationship with their former colleague, is something she has found very difficult. As of last night the final words hadn’t been decided on.’
But there will be no return in the morning for Schofield, who was seen with his mother on Friday, May 19, as he was told he was no longer wanted by ITV.
The popular show has a loyal following, and despite being out of work, friends of Schofield say he won’t be watching today.
A friend of the father-of-two told The Sun: ‘He physically could not watch – he’s not there yet.
‘Even listening to the opening credits would be hugely triggering.
‘His family is being incredibly careful not to have the TV on when he’s in the room to ensure he doesn’t see anything.
‘Of course he is aware Holly is back on air today and he absolutely wanted her to shine, and smash it.
‘But he physically could not watch – he is not there yet.’
Even though she is not speaking to him anymore following the fallout of the scandal, Schofield does support Holly and wants her to ‘shine and smash it’, insiders told The Sun.
Schofield has been supported by his family since his sacking, with photos emerging showing the moment he embraced his elderly mother after he was sacked from the show.
He was seen hugging his mother Pat, 87, on a bench overlooking the sea in Newquay, Cornwall, last month.
Schofield and his mother had driven from her home to their favourite fish and chip shop before heading out to Pentire Headland where they looked out over the sea.
The presenter, who had hosted This Morning since 2002, had been in the seaside town to support his mother as his brother, Timothy, was being sentenced for sex offences against a teenage boy.
The same day her youngest son was jailed for 12 years, Pat was told by her eldest child that he was losing his job.
While getting fish and chips with his mother, Phillip received a phone call from his manager telling him bosses at the channel wanted him to leave the show.
In an interview with the Sun last week, he said: ‘I had to go down to Cornwall to be with her for the sentencing.
The presenter, who had hosted This Morning since 2002, had been in the seaside town to support his mother as his brother, Timothy, was being sentenced for sex offences against a teenage boy
Phillip, pictured here on This Morning with former co-host Holly Willoughby, had presented the programme since 2002
‘And our family thing was always to buy fish and chips and go and sit on the headland.
‘I picked my mum up and she went in to get the fish and chips — and while she was getting them, my phone rang.
‘It was my then manager saying, ‘Mate, I am so sorry, it has become too loud for ITV. You will have to step down from This Morning’.
‘And she arrived in the car. She said to me before I arrived, ‘You’re not coming down with any bad news are you?’.
‘She sat in the car and she was all happy to see me, and then she said, ‘Oh, your face has changed’.
I said, ‘Let’s go on to the headland’. And I had to tell her.’
The furore which has surrounded Schofield has threatened to engulf This Morning, with ITV getting set to introduce ‘heavy vetting’ of public callers to protect presenters from outbursts over the scandal.
Production staff will take on the important role of screening callers, as audience interaction segments are also to be paused to avoid any abuse being sent towards presenters.
It comes as Holly prepares an ‘honest and personal statement’ to address the departure of her former co-star, who recently admitted he had lied about an affair with a younger male colleague, as she returns to the programme on today.
Her return to the sofa, accompanied by former guest host Josie Gibson, will mark a permanent change to the line-up as viewers face an altered show, with fewer opportunities to feel included by live presenters.
The presenter first met the man, then aged 15, when he was invited to open a drama school
Thoughts: The presenter, 42, posted a snap of the ‘Strawberry Moon’ on her wellness page Wylde Moon page alongside words urging others to ‘maintain a positive perspective’
It was also reported today that Holly is being courted by BBC bosses as they look to lure her away from ITV.
And on the eve of her on-screen return she posted a cryptic message urging others to ‘maintain a positive perspective’.
Uploading a snap of the ‘Strawberry Moon’ on her wellness page Wylde Moon page, the full post read: ‘This Full ‘Strawberry’ Moon in Sagittarius brings with it a zest for life.
‘The guiding influence of this fire sign combined with Jupiter encourages you to maintain a positive perspective and to tune into your finest qualities.
‘Inspire. Renew. Believe.’
In an interview last week Phillip said he believed his career was ‘over’ and he had ‘lost everything’ after admitting he had lied about his relationship with a man on the show.
‘I have to talk about television in the past tense, which breaks my heart,’ he told the BBC. ‘What am I going to do with my days? I see nothing ahead of me but blackness, sadness regret, remorse and guilt. I did something very wrong, and then I lied about it consistently.’
He said the criticism he’s faced since admitting the affair has had a ‘catastrophic effect’, adding: ‘Do you want me to die? Because that’s where I am. I have lost everything.’
In the interviews, Schofield, who was also dropped by his talent agency YMU after his admission to the Mail about the ‘unwise but not illegal relationship’, said he was ‘utterly broken and ashamed’.
Schofield told the BBC that the young man, who worked as a runner for a short period on This Morning, was 20 when he first had any kind of sexual contact with him.
He told The Sun they had become friends but in 2017 – three years before he came out as gay and separated from wife Stephanie Lowe after 27 years – ‘something happened that just changed it’.
There was ‘a consensual moment’ in Schofield’s dressing room after a show and ‘it was mutual’.
He said he did not have a ‘love affair’ with the man and that ‘it was not a relationship, we were not boyfriends, we were mates’.
He said ‘it wasn’t feelings’ he was getting but it was ‘more like mates: excitement’. He added: ‘I was really struggling with my sexuality at that time in the build up to what happened.’ The pair only had ‘five or six romantic encounters’ over a period of around six months.
He said they met at Schofield’s apartment in south-east London only once after he phoned the young man to invite him over for a beer.
He also denied using ITV money to pay for taxis for the man, saying: ‘I don’t have an ITV account.’
Schofield said he had ‘no excuse’ for what happened, ‘no one did anything wrong apart from me’ and ‘I was unprofessional, one time, in a 41-year career’.
He added that he and the young man ‘stupidly’ thought that ‘nobody knew’ about them.
Earlier this week, ITV said the man was 19 when he did work experience at This Morning in 2015, and 20 years old when he applied and secured a job as a runner on the show.
He later moved to Loose Women in 2019 and left ITV in 2021.
He said telling his wife Ms Lowe about his affair ‘was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to have with her’
Schofield apologised to Holly Willoughby, who presented This Morning with him for 14 years, for lying about his secret relationship and for tainting her public image.
‘I’ve lost my best friend. I let her down. I let that entire show down. I let the viewers down,’ he told The Sun. ‘Holly did not know [about the affair]. And she was one of the first texts that I sent to say, ‘I am so, so sorry that I lied to you.’
‘She didn’t reply and I understand why she didn’t reply. So if anyone is in any way linking Holly to this, that is absolutely, wholly untrue.’
He told the newspaper the pair have broken all contact, and said it was his paedophile brother’s imprisonment that made her distance herself from the friendship.
Describing Ms Willoughby, 42, as his ‘TV sister’, Schofield said he understood why she would think, ‘I have to step back from this’.
He told the BBC, when asked who on the This Morning team knew about his affair: ‘To my knowledge, I mean, somebody has to know something for there to be a rumour later on. I didn’t believe that anybody knew.’
The TV presenter has praised his daughters Molly, 29, and Ruby, 27, for ‘guarding him’ as he struggles to cope with the fall-out from the affair.
He told the BBC: ‘Last week if my daughters hadn’t been there then I wouldn’t be here. And they’ve guarded me and won’t let me out of their sight, it’s like a weird numbness.
‘I know that’s a selfish point of view. But you come to a point where you just think, how much are you supposed to take?’
He also said telling his wife Ms Lowe about his affair ‘was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to have with her’.
He added: ‘She is extremely disappointed because I lied to her as well.’