Holly Willoughby makes first This Morning appearance since Phillip Schofield's departure

Holly Willoughby spoke directly to viewers during her first appearance on This Morning since Phillip Schofield's departure, ITV News' Sam Holder reports

Holly Willoughby has asked viewers if they are okay in her first appearance on the This Morning sofa since Phillip Schofield's departure, saying she has felt "shaken, troubled, and let down" by the ongoing saga.

The 42-year-old spoke directly to viewers saying: "you, me and all of us at This Morning gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth."

She began Monday's show, saying: "Deep breath. Firstly, are you okay? I hope so.

"Feels very strange indeed sitting here without Phil.

"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 a 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 is equally hard to see the toll that it has taken on their own mental health.

"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," she finished before hugging Josie Gibson and thanking viewers for messages of support.

Willoughby presented alongside Josie Gibson after returning from the half-term break, over which she released multiple statements about her former co-host.

The duo presented This Morning for over 15 years together. Credit: PA

Schofield, 61, has been at the centre of a scandal since admitting to an affair with a younger male colleague at ITV that has seen him dropped by his talent agency, lose his role as a charity ambassador, and claim his career is over.

Questions were raised over Willoughby's knowledge of the affair, forcing her to post to Instagram that she was "very hurt" by Schofield's lie after she asked him if news of the relationship was true "directly."

In an interview with the The Sun released on Friday, Schofield claimed Willoughby did not know about the affair, which started when the young man worked on This Morning aged 20, adding: "I’ve lost my best friend. I let her down."

Elsewhere, This Morning editor Martin Frizell avoided questions at his home early on Monday morning, instead using the opportunity to talk about what celebrity chef John Torode had in store for viewers of the daytime television show.

When asked if there was a toxic culture at This Morning, he told reporters: "I'll tell you what's toxic... is aubergine.

"I'll tell you what's toxic... Aubergine": This Morning editor Martin Frizell dodges questions on claims about ITV's work environment

"Do you like aubergine? Do you? Because I don't like aubergine.

"It's just a personal thing. But it's a really big day today though, because John Torode is back with spicy barbecue prawns.

"Josie (Gibson), Adam Lambert, Jo Joyner, and Holly Willoughby. See you at 10."

He was swiftly criticised MP John Nicolson, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who tweeted: “This is a deeply inappropriate and disrespectful way to respond to questions about safeguarding vulnerable staff and bullying in the workplace at ITV.”

Mr Frizell claimed that "scores are being settled" when asked the same on Saturday.

He was named in a Twitter post by TV doctor Dr Ranj Singh who said he raised concerns about Mr Frizell's behaviour with the top of ITV and soon felt "managed out" after 10 years on the programme.

Willoughby was forced to deny she had any knowledge of Phillip Schofield's affair. Credit: PA

The entire saga has called into question the actions of top staff at ITV.

They have now hired a lawyer to conduct an external review over its handling of the situation.

ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has also been asked to face questions from MPs in relation to the broadcaster's approach to safeguarding and complaint handling.

Ms McCall has received an invitation to attend the Culture, Media and Sport committee session on Wednesday June 14.

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