In a dramatic year for daytime TV staple This Morning, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have both now left the sofa that they had shared together for more than 10 years.
Schofield’s fall from grace was swift following him admitting to an affair with a much younger male colleague while still married to his wife and losing his talent representation before departing from ITV altogether.
Willoughby said her decision in October was to spend more time “for me and my family” and the broadcaster’s managing director for media and entertainment Kevin Lygo has said she “remains a much-loved member of the ITV family” and that he hopes to work with her in the future.
Here is a timeline of how events unfolded:
– February 2020: Schofield comes out as gay after nearly 27 years of marriage to wife Stephanie, in an emotional on-air chat with co-host and long-time friend Willoughby. The pair embrace on the sofa.
– April 17 2023: The first hint something might be wrong comes in the first show after the Easter break. Schofield and Willoughby should both be on the sofa after he took leave while his brother Timothy was on trial for child sex offences. While Schofield is back in the studio, Willoughby is absent, saying she has shingles.
– May 10: The Sun reports the pair are “barely speaking”.
– May 11: Schofield calls Holly “his rock” and says they are “the best of friends”.
– May 15: The pair put on a united front on This Morning and make no reference to stories in the press about their relationship.
– May 18: Schofield presents what will turn out to be his last episode of This Morning.
– May 20: Schofield steps down from This Morning with immediate effect. ITV says he will continue to present “peak-time shows”, including The British Soap Awards and a new prime-time series. Willoughby releases a statement saying the sofa “won’t feel the same without him”.
– May 22: O’Leary and Hammond host the show and hail Schofield as “one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had”.
– May 26: Schofield admits to an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a much younger male colleague and resigns from ITV. He confirms the relationship began while he was still with his wife and says he will not be hosting the British Soap Awards, his last public commitment. He apologises for lying about the relationship. He is dropped by his talent agency YMU.
– May 27: Willoughby accuses Schofield of lying to her about the affair, saying his admission is “very hurtful”. ITV says the broadcaster was “not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour” when it looked into the matter in 2020.
– May 28: Former This Morning resident doctor Dr Ranj Singh says the show is “toxic”, adding he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing. ITV responds by saying an external and independent adviser was appointed to carry out a review after the complaint, which found “no evidence of bullying or discrimination”.
– May 31: In a letter, seen by the PA news agency, ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall says the broadcaster has instructed a barrister to conduct an external review of how it has handled Schofield’s affair. She adds that Jane Mulcahy KC, of Blackstone Chambers, will “carry out an external review to establish the facts”.
– June 1: Dame Carolyn is called to give evidence to a parliamentary committee on June 14 to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling after the departure of Schofield.
The Sun publishes an interview with Schofield in which he says he is sorry to Willoughby but owes his “greatest apology” to his former lover. He reiterates that he did not “groom” the man, and that although his wife was “very, very angry” about the affair, his daughters have been “guarding” him during the fallout.
– June 2: The BBC airs its own interview with Schofield, conducted by media editor Amol Rajan. Schofield says he has “lost everything” and the affair has had a “catastrophic effect” on his mind. Speaking about the criticism he has faced he says he can see “nothing ahead” except “blackness and sadness” and now speaks about his career in television “in the past tense”. Schofield also urges the media to leave the younger man alone.
– June 5: Willoughby makes an emotional return to This Morning, saying she felt “shaken, troubled, let down and worried” following the revelations about Schofield. The episode was watched by an average of 839,000 viewers, the highest daily average for the show since the coronation bank holiday on May 8, and had a peak audience of 1.6 million.
– June 14: ITV boss Dame Carolyn is questioned by MPs alongside ITV managing director Kevin Lygo and general counsel and company secretary Kyla Mullins about Schofield’s exit. Dame Carolyn tells the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee that the broadcaster does not recognise allegations of a toxic culture at This Morning, saying “it deeply disappoints me”.
– September 5: This Morning loses its best daytime show title at the National Television Awards to The Repair Shop following being on a winning streak in the daytime category for the last number of years.
– September 13: Dame Carolyn updates the CMS committee to say the external review is being led by Jane Mulcahy KC and she has “conducted multiple witness interviews, with further interviews set to continue during the course of September”.
– October 6: A shopping centre security officer is remanded in custody over an alleged plot to kidnap and murder Willoughby. Gavin Plumb, 36, was charged at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court with soliciting a man named David Nelson to commit murder, and incitement to commit kidnap between October 2 and 5 in Harlow, Essex. The other man was due to arrive in the UK the following week from the US, the court heard.
– October 10: Willoughby announces she is stepping down from presenting This Morning after 14 years saying on Instagram that it was an “honour to just be part of its story”. Following Willoughby’s announcement, Mr Lygo said: “She remains a much loved member of the ITV family and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the future.”