When the presenter later admitted to the “consensual on-off relationship” and having lied to “colleagues and friends”, Willoughby issued a follow-up statement in which she said it had “taken time to process” the news.
“When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and I was told it was not. It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie,” she said.
Now, returning from her half-term break, Willoughby opened Monday’s edition of the programme by asking viewers at home if they were OK, adding it “feels very strange indeed” presenting without Phil.
Appearing alongside Josie Gibson, she continued: “I imagine that you might have 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.
“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 stepped 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.”
Willoughby’s comments come after Schofield gave an emotional interview to the BBC, in which he said he understood “how Caroline Flack felt” and if his daughters “hadn’t been there” for him amid the controversy, “I wouldn’t be here”.
She added: “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.”
Willoughby concluded by thanking viewers for their “kind messages”, before being hugged by Gibson who said “all we can do now is be the family that we are”.
Unfortunately, though, many Twitter users didn’t buy the statement, accusing the TV personality of “acting”, “insincerity” and reading a “scripted” response:
\u201cHolly Willoughby giving this energy #Thismorning\u201d
\u201cOn Friday I believed Alison & you could tell she was truly upset. Unfortunately I didn\u2019t feel the same listening to Holly Willoughby this morning. She\u2019s come across as fake and you could tell it\u2019s not her words, but ITV\u2019s legal team! #ThisMorning\u201d
\u201cHolly Willoughby acting fail. Complete & utter insincere corporate written acting exercise. That was no statement. It was a car crash. \nYour looks & doe eyes aren't getting you out of this one. #thismorning\u201d
— Gordon G \u262e\ufe0f \ud83c\uddfe\ud83c\uddea #COYP (@Gordon G \u262e\ufe0f \ud83c\uddfe\ud83c\uddea #COYP)
\u201cApparently Holly Willoughby is latest to do a well rehearsed North Korean style statement live on This Morning. This show gets 750,000 viewers. The self importance displayed by this show is staggering. I have my radio on to avoid this dross, but the radio reports it !\u201d