Holly Willoughby has vowed never to publicly address the Phillip Schofield scandal that has engulfed ITV again as insiders claim she is still ‘angry’ at her former co-host.
The 42-year-old distanced herself from her former best friend during a ‘highly strategised’ return to the This Morning sofa on Monday, after he was ousted from the programme when admitting to lying about his relationship with a much younger male colleague.
Holly told viewers she had been left ‘shaken, let down and worried’ and only mentioned Schofield once by name when she said it was ‘very strange indeed sitting here without Phil’ – for the rest of her address she instead referred to him as ‘someone’ and ‘they’.
Millions of people have since viewed the segment on social media, although some have had a tepid response after complaining it had come across as ‘melodramatic, scripted and soulless’.
However, those looking for further screen time committed to confronting the scandal may be disappointed after sources claimed the mother-of-three has no intention of revisiting the topic publicly.
Holly Willoughby, pictured here on This Morning on Monday, distanced herself from her former co-host Phillip Schofield in a ‘highly strategised’ speech
The pair, who were best friends, have publicly fallen out after Phillip lied to Holly about having an affair with a younger male colleague from the show
‘This is the only time Holly will ever speak about Phil and what has happened,’ a source told The Sun.
‘She still feels incredibly angry and upset by his actions and is very much still trying to get her head around it.
‘It took a lot for Holly to compose herself and speak about what has gone on in the last few weeks.
‘But people expecting her to sit and pour her heart out will be waiting for a long time.
‘Holly is upset that Phil, who she believed to be a very close friend, lied to her about his affair.
‘She is angry and that will take a long time for her to come to terms with.’
Holly had appeared to be on the brink of tears during parts of her speech, although some people watching at home were less than impressed.
Unconvinced viewers wrote on Twitter: ‘Absolutely shocking statement. It’s only derivative is to bring Phil down more, poor Holly poor me. Also shows how much she despises him & couldn’t care less.’
Another added: ‘Horrible message. I’m done. Switched over & won’t be watching,’ while a third said: ‘Amazing how she is emotional one moment and the next she’s all giggles… like the cat that got the cream.’
Another viewer tweeted: ‘My one and only comment on this. Scripted and soulless,’ and someone added: ‘She did well to hold it together although the language was a bit melodramatic.’
Other social media users however praised the star, writing: ‘Very appropriate. Holly is NOT responsible for Phil. No colleague is responsible for what another colleague does or does not do, no matter how closely the working relationship.’
Another added: ‘Give it a rest now let the people who need to deal with it do so. Of course it’s scripted she’s going to know what she needs to say. Phil’s the one in the wrong here. Love Josie she’s a breath of fresh air! Good luck girls.’
A third wrote: ‘I’m feeling sorry for Holly & for everyone who Phil lied too.’
Holly chose a £188 cream button-up dress from high street shop Reiss to ensure the tone was dour enough, without being too gloomy for the moment.
Holly being hugged by Josie Gibson, who she is presenting the programme with after Phillip’s departure
Prior to the speech insiders had called it the most difficult day of Holly’s career, and after the cameras stopped rolling she was embraced by her colleagues in show of support.
She had begun by asking viewers if they were ‘OK’, before remarking it felt ‘very strange indeed sitting here without Phil’.
Holly went on: ‘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 they had to resign from ITV, and step down from a career that they loved. That’s 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 now is a desire to heal for the health and wellbeing of everyone.’
Ms Willoughby, who was hosting the programme with 2010 Big Brother winner Josie Gibson, then told viewers that under-fire This Morning was moving forward to a ‘new chapter’ – one without Schofield.
She said: ‘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, Dermot, Alison, Craig and every single person that works on this show will continue to work hard every single day to bring you this show that we love.’
Ms Willoughby’s words met with a mixed reception from viewers, with some criticising her for being too ‘staged.’
But sources close to her say that she was ‘absolutely relieved’ to get it over with.
Holly Willoughby old how she had been left ‘shaken, troubled, let down and worried’ by the scandal that has engulfed the ITV programme and its former host Phillip Schofield
And the Mail can reveal that every word was pored over and changed several times before finally a final draft was approved by ITV bosses this morning, not long before the show aired.
Ms Willoughby had consulted her family over how she should deal with it during their sunshine break in Portugal last week. Afterwards she ran it by her publicist, Laura Sinclair.
The host’s TV production guru Dan Baldwin also helped.
However, then it was left in the hands of ITV bosses and Ms Willoughby to decide just how often Schofield was mentioned.
A late decision was taken to include him but not when discussing the scandal.
One source said: ‘Holly knew she needed to put the viewers at the forefront of all of this, the show is in dire straits and she sees it as her role to save it.
‘So she personally wanted to get it absolutely right which meant there were many drafts to be gone through.
‘Eventually they settled on giving Phil a fleeting mention. As well as getting the messaging right for the audience watching at home, how the statement was reported by all forms of the media was important too.
‘The last thing they wanted was a Phil shunned type headline.’
After the show, Ms Willoughby spoke to her colleagues and senior staff including editor Martin Frizell before returning home to see her three children.
The calm before the storm: Phillip and Holly on the sofa of ITV’s This Morning last month, on May 11
Friends of the star say that she ‘breathed a huge sigh of relief’ once she came off air in what they say was one of the most difficult days of her career.
‘Even when Holly finished the statement she had more than two more hours of live telly to do so yes, she was so pleased to have got through it,’ one said.
‘There were hugs as everyone vowed to move forward together.’
Ms Willoughby will be flanked once again tomorrow by Ms Gibson, 38, and then Craig Doyle for Wednesday and Thursday.
Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary will return for Friday’s episode.