As I open the hotel door to greet Phillip Schofield, I encounter an ashen, trembling, almost skeletal man.
He speaks so softly that our camera microphone has to move closer to pick him up. This is a man on the brink.
I ask him how is he? He replies ironically: “I feel very bad. Mentally, completely broken.
“And if it wasn’t for my girls last week, I wouldn’t be here.
“I know I deserve it, but they said, ‘Don’t you dare, we’re here to take care of you.’ I feel embarrassed and ashamed.
“I just felt like I was going deeper and deeper and deeper. And then this bizarre numbness comes over you, like selfishness.
“I had already had a few friggin’ years and with this ultimate final disaster, I was staring at nothing and the girls were like, ‘Don’t, we’re here to take care of you.’ Don’t you dare do it under our supervision.
“And that took me a step back and they won’t leave me alone. They were guarding me.”
Over the past two weeks, Phillip has been hanged, teased and quartered on social media over news of his affair with a much younger colleague.
He cheated on his wife and repeatedly lied to family, friends and his ITV colleagues.
He is now gone from all social media and deleted everything from his phone. From a hotel suite in Surrey, he says: “AI isn’t going to wipe out humanity – it’s social media.
“Because – what’s the saying? – A lie spreads around the world before the truth has even taken root. It’s an invention and it grows and grows and it’s like cancer. Social media is cancer.
“You can’t stop it. There are completely innocent people involved who are then brought to justice. That’s what we’ve become. Who is our next victim? Bring her down, someone else now.
“And that’s the worst part for me. There are good sides to social media, but the bad sides are vicious, vile, deeply homophobic and such… It’s a witch hunt.
“It goes on and on. Don’t they know that at the end there is a human being? Do you really want me to die? Is this the final?”
Today, Phillip is accompanied by his daughter Ruby, who is clearly devoted to him.
The award-winning presenter, a 41-year TV veteran, contacted The Sun through his lawyer to conduct this interview.
While it’s undoubtedly the toughest 90 minutes of my professional life, there’s almost an element of catharsis afterwards.
His demons were in a way publicly cast out. He kept apologizing.
In fact, after speaking to me, he chats on camera with the BBC’s Amol Rajan. It seems he is desperately trying to flagellate himself.
He states openly: “I know that an interview with you will not prevent that.
“It won’t stop it. I just want to do everything I can to say it’s my fault. Don’t persecute him, don’t persecute his friends, don’t persecute his family. No one did anything wrong except me.”
Yesterday’s bright, happy, smiling Phillip Schofield is gone. In its place, the shell of a man.
“I don’t sleep, I don’t eat,” he says. “There is a lot of southern comfort.
“My mind is constantly in a frenzy. I think back to regret, forward to… what do I do now? What am I going to do now?
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk down a street again. It’s like everyone knows.
“I’m dressed like this because I couldn’t go home. i can’t go out I don’t think any charity would want to be associated with me.”
“I was dropped from The Prince’s Trust, which I understand, but it broke my heart.
“I lost everything. It’s all gone. Telly was my safe place, the only thing I loved. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever work in television again.
“I don’t know what my identity is anymore. I don’t know who I am now. What happens in six months? What should I do?
“Now I have the rest of my life to plan for Steph and the girls and hope I can take care of them.”
Overnight, the star, a household name and once national treasure, feels like he’s lost everything.
His huge salary is gone. He will not sue ITV, nor is he asking for a settlement package.
He says: “I think when you’ve caused this damage, you can’t expect anything. It’s my fault. I understand completely.”
He turns his hands over and reveals a cluster of blisters and calluses – another physical sign of this ongoing saga. “I vaped a lot,” he sighs.
“I didn’t realize it until it suddenly hurt, but I would sit there and look up at the sky or out the window and just stare into space.
“I just sit on the sofa and stare. I realize this has given me blisters on both hands.”
Someone who’s also been hit incredibly hard is his mother Pat, 87.
Earlier this month their youngest son, Timothy, 54, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison after being found guilty of a series of child sex crimes. The abuse spanned three years during which the victim was a teenager.
Timothy will serve two-thirds of his sentence before being released.
The plainclothes police officer was convicted of causing a child to observe sexual activity and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
He was also found guilty of three counts of inducing a child to engage in sexual activity and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
In a statement on the victim’s impact, the boy said how the abuse left him “bitter” and “lifeless”.
He said he felt trapped in a loop of fear and anxiety that only ended when Timothy Schofield was arrested.
The case tore the Schofield family apart. Phillip is thrilled when he talks about his mum, adding: “I had to go to Cornwall to be with her for the sentencing.
“Our family thing has always been to buy fish and chips and sit on the headland. I picked my mom up and she went in to get the fish and chips and while she was getting it my phone rang.
“My manager at the time said, ‘Mate, I’m so sorry, it’s gotten too loud for ITV. You must step down from This Morning.’
“Before I arrived, she said to me, ‘You don’t bring bad news, do you?’
“She was in the car and very happy to see me. Then she said, “Oh, your face has changed.” I said, let’s go to the headland. And I had to tell her. She is devastated.”
He claims ITV offered him therapy but has yet to take it.
Instead, he relies on his wife, daughters and friends. He was also contacted by a number of former colleagues who offered him support.
“A friend said to me today, ‘Remember, you are the person your friends know.’ The people who love you.
“The people who have worked with you and love you because of working with you. All.”
“You hope decent people don’t believe (the bad things) but at three in the morning it keeps me up.
“Someone, a lovely man named Tony, who escorted me here today said, ‘You keep smiling,’ but I just don’t know how.”