Holly Willoughby set to return to This Morning duties following Schofield exit
By Ellie Iorizzo, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter
This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby is due to return to the sofa on Monday alongside Josie Gibson as the ITV show continues to face controversy in the wake of Phillip Schofield’s departure.
Willoughby, 42, was pictured arriving at the studio after a two-week half-term break following the shock departure of her former co-host and his subsequent revelation of an affair with a younger ITV male employee.
This Morning editor Martin Frizell was also photographed arriving at Television Centre in London’s White City ahead of the anticipated episode.
Willoughby’s return to presenting duties was confirmed at the end of Friday’s episode of This Morning, which was hosted by Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary, and that Gibson will be filling in as co-host.
The Sun newspaper has since reported that Willoughby is planning to address the Schofield controversy on the show, telling viewers how difficult it has been behind the scenes.
It comes after Schofield said he “didn’t tell anybody” about his affair with his former This Morning colleague, confirming in a tell-all interview with BBC’s Amol Rajan that Willoughby “did not know”.
Similarly, in his interview with the Sun, the 61-year-old presenter apologised to Willoughby for lying to her about his relationship, saying: “I’ve lost my best friend.”
He added: “I let her (Holly) down. I let that entire show down. I let the viewers down.
“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 as well. So, yeah, if anyone is in any way linking Holly to this, that is absolutely, wholly untrue.”
The duo, who had presented the show together since 2009 and also co-hosted Dancing On Ice before Schofield resigned from ITV, had been open about their close friendship over the years.
Willoughby’s return comes as the ITV show has been plagued by allegations of “toxicity”, including from former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes who has alleged there was a “total cover-up” over the Schofield affair.
The show’s former resident doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, also hit out at a “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.
In a letter from ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall to Parliament on Wednesday, she said an external review conducted following a complaint made by Dr Ranj found “no evidence of bullying or discrimination”.
Meanwhile, former This Morning head of news Emily Maddick, who worked on the show from September to December 2019, claimed she quit the programme due to “bullying, sexism and a toxic culture of fear and intimidation”.
On Saturday, This Morning editor Frizell told a Sky News reporter to “read between the lines” amid claims of toxicity, adding: “I think there’s some scores being settled.”
Ms McCall has been called to a parliamentary committee on June 14th to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling following Schofield’s exit.
On Wednesday, she confirmed the broadcaster had instructed barrister Jane Mulcahy KC of Blackstone Chambers to carry out an external review of the facts.