Holly Willoughby was left blindsided on Thursday night after her This Morning co-star Phillip Schofield released an extraordinary statement about their rumoured feud.
Phillip broke his silence on claims a fallout with his co-host of 14 years has been rumbling on behind-the-scenes of This Morning and threatening the future of the ITV golden couple.
As Phillip admitted that ‘the last few weeks haven’t been easy for us,’ sources close to Ms Willoughby told MailOnline that she had no idea that Mr Schofield was going to make a statement. They added the first she saw of it was when it was published online.
Bosses are said to be in a major crisis, with reports Holly, 42, wants to pull the plug on their ITV partnership for good.
But Phillip, 61, has now spoken out on the reports their relationship has become strained following a string of controversies including Queuegate and his brother, Timothy, convicted of child sex offences.
Speaking out: Phillip Schofield has broken his silence on claims a backstage fallout with Holly Willoughby has been rumbling on behind-the-scenes of This Morning
Speaking out: Phil said the past few weeks have been incredibly tough as he issued a statement amidst the surrounding rumours of tensions brewing on set (pictured last month)
‘The last few weeks haven’t been easy for either of us. As I have said before, Holly is my rock,’ Phil told The Sun.
‘We’re the best of friends — as always, she is an incredible support on screen, behind the scenes and on the phone. Holly has always been there for me, through thick and thin. And I’ve been there for her.’
The duo became ‘great friends’ having first met on Dancing on Ice and they have presented This Morning together since 2009.
She was also described as his ‘rock’ when he came out as gay live on This Morning in 2020.
Phil has had a tumultuous few months, taking a break from work when his brother was convicted of child sex offences.
Timothy Schofield, 54, was found guilty of 11 counts of sexual offences against his underage victim – with whom he watched porn while performing a sex act.
Phil took to social media after his brother was found guilty saying: ‘As far as I am concerned, I no longer have a brother.’
In his statement, released on Thursday after they appeared back on This Morning, Phil said his family have been through ‘a real ordeal’.
Shutting down rumours of a feud, he said: ‘Holly’s support throughout meant the world to me, as did the support of my bosses at ITV, my editor Martin Frizell and the whole This Morning family, including our amazing viewers. And of course Holly has herself been ill with shingles.’
There has been talk as to why their 14-year reign as ‘besties’ is over, but the Mail’s Katie Hind has been told that at the heart of the fall-out is a dispute over whether Schofield confided in Holly that his brother Timothy, a police IT worker, faced charges of child sex offences.
Friends say Willoughby was in the dark until Schofield took a week’s leave from the ITV daytime show to avoid the limelight while the trial took place last month – something he is at pains to deny.
Sources close to Willoughby claim she is ‘deeply upset’ that she found out what was happening from a third party.
Not so long ago, the pair were undeniably close.
After a National Television Awards win in 2016 they turned up for their slot seemingly hungover from celebrating the night before.
And in 2020, when Schofield left his family and told viewers he was gay, live on This Morning, Willoughby was at his side. He described her as his ‘rock’.
Not so long ago, the pair were undeniably close. After a National Television Awards win in 2016 they turned up for their slot seemingly hungover from celebrating the night before
Her support at such a crucial time in his life makes it all the more surprising that Schofield would keep the accusations against his brother a secret.
He says Willoughby was once again his ‘absolute rock’, but her friends tell a different story.
One says: ‘Holly had to find out from someone else which must have been awful for her. She has been so loyal to him.
‘It has been upsetting for her, they have been pretty inseparable for 14 years. They have been through so much together, some happy and some really tough. But now their once super close friendship is no longer.’
Yesterday, a spokesman for the 42-year-old declined to comment when asked if she was kept in the dark over the court case. Schofield said it was ‘categorically untrue’.
In Phil’s absence from This Morning, Holly was paired with Alison Hammond and ITV bosses were said to be overjoyed by their chemistry and are now looking for more opportunities to pair them up, with Hammond set to be front and centre of the show’s 35th birthday celebrations in October.
And ITV favourite Holly has reportedly made it clear she wants to remain hosting the daytime show if Phil ever expressed an interest in leaving.
While Willoughby has ‘no plans to leave’ according to sources close to her, rumours at ITV suggest Schofield may not return to the show after the summer.
It is thought his contract runs out and talk among executives is that it will not be renewed. Until now, Schofield has had the backing of the upper echelons of the channel.
Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, has always been close to Schofield, as have its head of daytime Emma Gormley and This Morning editor Martin Frizell.
But the Mail can reveal the star has now lost the support of Frizell – who was once so staunchly loyal to him that he ‘took the bullets fired at Schofield’.
Sources close to Frizell, the husband of former GMTV host Fiona Phillips, say that he is ‘fed up of clearing up Schofield’s mess’.
Recent controversies included his refusal to address jumping the queue to see the late Queen laying in state last September.
One tells the Mail’s Katie Hind: ‘Martin and Phil were once so close, a real team. Martin is an old-fashioned television man who believes in loyalty but things have changed.’
Only last week Frizell was seen sitting in the canteen ‘with a face like thunder’ while the show was on air. Usually, sources say, he would be ‘jumping up and down in the gallery and in the studio’.
Meanwhile a source close to Holly revealed to MailOnline’s Dan Wootton: ‘The fallout with Phillip has been going on for quite some time.
‘For Holly there’s also a degree of her becoming concerned that some of the scandals connected to Phillip are damaging her reputation.
‘There’s an understandable element of, “I’ve got to think about my career, too”, She’s been seeking guidance from (her husband) Dan (Baldwin) and ITV on that front.
‘This hasn’t been about the last few weeks, but a number of months. She has always been loyal to Phillip and loved working with him.
Controversy: Phillip said his family have been through ‘a real ordeal’ after his younger brother Timothy (pictured) was convicted of child sex offences
Hardship: ‘The last few weeks haven’t been easy for either of us. As I have said before, Holly is my rock,’ Phil said (pictured with his mother Pat and brother Tim)
Backlash: Last year Holly and Phil faced a backlash over claims they ‘skipped the queue’ to see the Queen lying in state, with Holly said to be distraught over the uproar
Awkward: On Thursday, the pair put on brave faces as they appeared on screen following claims they are ‘not as close as they once were’ and viewers felt they could pick up on tensions
Feud denial: Phil said: ‘Holly’s support throughout meant the world to me, as did the support of my bosses at ITV, my editor Martin Frizell and the whole This Morning family’
‘But she’s also worked so hard to build her own reputation, so she can’t risk Phillip dragging her down.
Issues are said to have been going on for some time behind the scenes on the show and the pair are reportedly more distant than they once were.
On Thursday, the pair put on brave faces as they appeared on screen following claims they are ‘not as close as they once were’ and now barely speak off camera.
Commenting on the programme, Twitter users felt they could pick up on tensions on the show.
One viewer wrote: ‘Phil has tried twice to get Holly into their “giggle” mode, but she ignored him. Firstly, he laughed at a story about farts, then he mentioned glow worms light coming from their ass…
‘No response from Holly… I hope Phil and Holly make up… Holly having to pretend everythings ok with her n phil #thismorning…
‘Doesn’t matter how much they try to cover up the cooling off of their friendship, it’s obvious on the sofa. Holly’s body language says it all, the way she sits slightly turned away from Phil.’
Sharing a gif of Ted Danson recoiling with the tagline ‘There’s a lot of tension in the air right now’, a fan penned alongside: ‘The only reason I’m watching This Morning Holly and Phil’, with a smiling emoji.
Other fans noted that Holly previously had Phillip’s name tagged in her Twitter bio and the handle was now removed in favour of a list of career highlights. Despite the speculation, it cannot be clarified when the change was made.
The Twitter users wrote: ‘Didn’t Holly’s twitter bio say something about being introduced to Twitter by ‘a legend’ (ie Phil), now it’s not there…
‘Loads of newspaper reports overnight that they’ve both fallen out and don’t talk anymore. Holly’s also removed the mention of Phil from her twitter bio’.
The presenting duo have worked together for more than a decade after Holly took over from Fern Britton as Phil’s co-host back in 2009.
Holly joined the This Morning team three years after she started hosting Dancing On Ice in 2006, while Phil first appeared on the chat show four years earlier in 2002.
Holly and Phil have since left viewers in hysterics with their on and off-screen antics.
All over? Bosses are said to be in a major crisis , with reports Holly, 42, wants to pull the plug on their ITV partnership. The duo became ‘great friends’ having first met on Dancing on Ice
History: The presenting duo (pictured in November 2009) have worked together for more than a decade after Holly took over from Fern Britton as Phillip’s co-host back in 2009
They have previously spoken about their close bond and have gushed over how This Morning is a ‘family’ to them rather than just a job.
After returning to the show following his annual summer holiday last August, Phil described the show as a ‘support group’ for him.
‘It’s like ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!’ Everyone knows everything about everybody, and that’s nice… so I always miss that friendship group,’ he explained.
‘This Morning is more than just a show, it’s such a lovely group of people to come to work with and you do miss that – it’s not really a job.
Noted: Viewers said thought tensions between them was palpable as they returned to This Morning on Thursday
‘It’s more than a job, it’s much much more than that… and I’m not gonna lie, This Morning is one of my support groups and that’s a lovely thing to have.’
Holly echoed Phil’s sentiments as she described the show as ‘one big family’.
Gushing over their friendship, Phil previously described his co-host as ‘sensitive, kind, intuitive, spiritual, and a friend’, while Holly called him ‘playful, very loyal, kind, very funny, and a friend’.
They are notorious for their amusing antics on the breakfast show, sending fans into fits of laughter as they arrived to the show in the clothes from the night before following a boozy night at the National Television Awards back in 2016.
And the pair reflected on their raucous antics back in 2019, when they nostalgically marked their 10th anniversary together on This Morning.
Marking the milestone, Phil said at the time: ‘They always say ”time flies if you’re having fun” and we have such a ball, such fun together and so the time has whizzed by.
While Holly added: ‘It doesn’t feel like 10 years. It’s gone super-duper fast, but it’s been so amazing. The best mark I’ve got of that time is that it’s the same age as [my son] Harry.
‘So, as I’ve watched him grow, I know how long I’ve been on This Morning, so that’s always a visual reminder of how long I’ve been there.’
MailOnline has contacted Holly and Phil’s representatives and ITV for comment.