Holly Willoughby said she felt “shaken, troubled, let down and worried” as she made her first appearance on This Morning since Phillip Schofield’s departure from the show.
The TV presenter, 42, was back on screen after being pictured in Portugal with her family on a half-term break following the shock departure of her former co-host Schofield.
Schofield, 61 resigned from ITV after revelations regarding his affair with a much younger colleague emerged last month.
In a message at the start of the show addressing the scandal, Willoughby said “we gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth.”
Willoughby said her co-host had “acted in a way that they themselves felt that they had to resign from ITV and step down from a career that they loved”.
She said: “That is 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 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.
“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.”
Appearing alongside her temporary co-host Josie Gibson, who gave her a hug, she thanked viewers for their messages of support.
Schofield has spoken about the toll the fallout of the scandal has had on his mental health, telling The Sun it has had a “catastrophic effect” on his mind and he is currently getting by “hour by hour”.
In a BBC interview last week, he said he had “lost everything” and his career was over after the relationship affair came to light.
Responding to the criticism he has faced, the former This Morning host asked: “Do you want me to die? Because that’s where I am.”
Schofield denied he had ever had a sexual relationship with his former lover when he was underage, and said the fallout from the revelations had been “relentless” as he urged the media to leave his former lover “alone now”.
“I’m not in television any more, I don’t know what I am even remotely if I get through this,” Schofield said.
He said he saw “nothing ahead of me but blackness and sadness” following the fallout from his secret affair.
Holly Willoughby This Morning statement in full
“Hi there. Good morning. Josie (Gibson), thank you for being here. Right, deep breath.
“Firstly, are you OK? It feels very strange indeed sitting here without Phil.
“And 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 step 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. 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.
“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 (Gibson), Dermot (O’Leary), Alison (Hammond), Craig (Doyle), 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.”
In an earlier interview, the presenter told The Sun the fallout from his secret affair had brought “the greatest misery” to the man’s “totally innocent life”.
It comes after Schofield said he is sorry for lying to his “best friend” Holly Willoughby, but owes his “greatest apology” to his former lover and colleague.
Schofield told the newspaper he has been “vaping a lot” and drinking Southern Comfort whiskey liqueur since revealing his affair.
He said he thought it “looked shocking” when an old photograph, featuring both him and the man who would later become his lover, emerged online.
Schofield also told The Sun he did not “lie to protect” his career, but the colleague “didn’t want his name in public”.
ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has been called to a parliamentary committee on 14 June to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling following Schofield’s exit.
TV Bosses claim they were lied to by Schofield who, when questioned during an internal investigation into the allegations, denied a relationship with the young man whom he helped to get a job on This Morning.
But ITV’s explanation has been dismissed by critics, including former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, who claimed in an explosive interview on GB News that Schofield’s lover was ferried to ITV’s studios from the presenter’s home in cars paid for by the company.
Meanwhile, This Morning editor Martin Frizell has been criticised by an MP for his “deeply inappropriate and disrespectful” answer to questions about allegations of a “toxic” work environment at ITV.
Frizell was approached by Sky News ahead of Willoughby’s return to the show.
Asked if there is a “toxic” work environment at This Morning, he replied: “I’ll tell you what’s toxic and I’ve always found it toxic. Aubergine. Do you like aubergine? Do you? Do you like aubergine because I don’t like aubergine. It’s just a personal thing.”
John Nicolson MP, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, tweeted: “This is a deeply inappropriate and disrespectful way to respond to questions about safeguarding vulnerable staff and bullying in the workplace at ITV.”
(This story is being updated)