Phillip Schofield has said he is sorry for lying to his “best friend” Holly Willoughby, but owes his “greatest apology” to his former lover and colleague.
The 61-year-old presenter told The Sun the fallout from his secret affair had brought “the greatest misery” to the man’s “totally innocent life”.
Schofield resigned from ITV last week and was dropped by his talent agency YMU after admitting to the “unwise but not illegal” relationship.
In his first interview since leaving the broadcaster and This Morning, he said he was “utterly broken and ashamed” but that he had not “groomed” the man.
He also denied there had ever been a “feud” between him and his “TV sister” Willoughby.
“I’ve lost my best friend. I let her down,” he told The Sun.
“Holly did not know. And she was one of the first texts that I sent, to say, ‘I am so, so sorry that I lied to you’.”
The pair had presented This Morning together since 2009, with Willoughby due to return to the show on Monday after the half-term break, having taken an early holiday after news of Schofield’s departure emerged.
Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary have been among the presenters hosting the programme in recent weeks.
Schofield went on to say that his “greatest apology” over the fallout from the affair was to his former lover and that he would “die sorry” for what he had done.
“It has brought the greatest misery into his totally innocent life, his totally innocent family, his totally innocent friends. It has brought the greatest grief to them,” he told The Sun.
“I am deeply sorry and I apologise to him because I should have known better. I should have acted the way I have always acted. I should not have done it.
“I’m sorry. And I will forever be sorry. I will die sorry. I am so deeply mortified.”
Schofield had reportedly first met the man when he was 15-years-old, but said the affair did not begin until he was much older and had begun working at ITV.
He told The Sun the affair with the younger colleague began in 2017 after a “consensual moment” in his dressing room.
“It was not a love affair, it was not a relationship, we were not boyfriends; we were mates,” he said.
“I did not (groom him). There are accusations of all sorts of things. It never came across that way (an abuse of power) because we’d become mates. I don’t know about that.
“Of course I understand that there will be a massive judgment, but bearing in mind, I have never exercised that anywhere else.”
The relationship took place while the TV star was still married to wife Stephanie Lowe and before he came out publicly as gay.
Schofield said his wife was “very, very angry” after he confessed to her, having previously denied the relationship, but that his daughters, Ruby and Molly Lowe, had been very supportive.
His interview with The Sun comes ahead of another with the BBC, due to air on Friday, in which he will face questions from Amol Rajan.
In a preview of the interview the presenter said he and the young man had begun communicating with a “completely innocent backwards and forwards” on Twitter about jobs and careers.
“What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with talking to someone no matter what age they are?” he said.
He added: “The brief communications backwards and forwards up to the point that he came to work on This Morning I think was just chat.
“What was unwise was the fact that it happened and that was a very, very grave error.
“It was consensual, but it was my fault.”
It comes after ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall was called to a parliamentary committee on June 14 to answer questions about the broadcaster’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling following Schofield’s exit.
In a letter seen by the PA news agency on Wednesday, the chief executive revealed the broadcaster had instructed barrister Jane Mulcahy KC of Blackstone Chambers, to carry out an external review of the facts.
It also said the broadcaster had “reviewed” its records and said “when rumours of a relationship” between Schofield and an employee of ITV emerged, they “both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours”.
“Given the ongoing rumours, we continued to ask questions of both parties, who both continued to deny the rumours, including as recently as this month,” the letter stated.
The letter was addressed to culture secretary Lucy Frazer, Culture, Media and Sport committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage and Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes.
Dame Caroline said: “The Committee regards the media industry’s duty of care towards its staff a matter of the highest importance.
“Whilst the recent coverage focuses on the Schofield case, it also raises fundamental issues about safeguarding and complaint handling both at ITV and more widely across the media.
“These issues should, particularly in the case of public service broadcasters, be open to scrutiny. The public must have confidence in the robustness of public service broadcasters’ safeguarding procedures.
Dame Carolyn’s letter said there has been “a lot of inaccuracy” in reporting and the former employee Schofield admitted to an affair with has been offered support throughout.
Since Schofield’s resignation, This Morning has been plagued by allegations of “toxicity”.
The show’s former resident doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, has hit out at a “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there – and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.
In the letter on Wednesday, the ITV boss said that an external review conducted following a complaint made by Dr Ranj found “no evidence of bullying or discrimination”.