EXCLUSIVE: ITV’s television chief Kevin Lygo has said that Piers Morgan will be impossible to replace on Good Morning Britain after the presenter exited the show in a firestorm over his Meghan Markle tirade.
In his first comments since Morgan explosively quit last month, ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment told Deadline that Good Morning Britain will turn to its existing presenters to cover for the former CNN anchor in the short-term, before deciding if a permanent replacement is needed.
“Piers is a special thing. You can’t replace somebody like him. There is nobody like Piers, for good or bad,” Lygo said. “We have a roster of presenters, including Ben [Shephard], Susanna [Reid], Charlotte [Hawkins], and Kate [Garraway]. They’re all stepping up and doing a few more days than they would have done… We’ll mix and match until we feel what the right thing is to do. There isn’t a single person [who can replace him].”
He added that it was an amicable split in the circumstances and Morgan is welcome back on ITV, not least to make future series of interview format Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. “I hate falling out with people,” Lygo said. It echoed comments from Morgan, himself, who wrote in the Mail On Sunday that he appreciated his “open, honest and humorous” relationship with ITV’s programming boss.
“Piers used to be on holiday half the time anyway,” Lygo said playfully. “He’s done a good innings for Piers. I’m amazed he lasted this long. Trust me, there were some other moments where I thought, ‘Oh, here we go.’ The last time I signed him was about a year-and-half ago, and I remember saying: ‘Well, we’ve had a great run haven’t we Piers? I can’t believe there’s ever going to be a moment where I present you with a carriage clock for long service, so let’s just keep it going for as long as we can.”
Morgan’s self-inflicted exit came after he questioned whether Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, was telling the truth when revealing to Oprah Winfrey that she had suicidal thoughts during her time with the royal family. “I don’t believe a word she says, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report,” Morgan said on Good Morning Britain, in a rage-fuelled rampage that prompted a record 57,121 complaints to UK television regulator Ofcom.
The comments did not sit easily with ITV’s mental health initiatives and CEO Carolyn McCall almost immediately distanced the company from Morgan’s tirade. Lygo issued Morgan with an ultimatum: Apologize or resign. Morgan recounted their conversations in his Mail On Sunday piece: “Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Television, who I’d spoken to several times since yesterday, rang to say we were now ‘on the cliff edge’ and either I apologised, or I would have to leave GMB.
“I appreciated his directness – we’ve always had a very open, honest and humorous relationship – and said I’d call him back when I’d thought it over… Suddenly, I reached a moment of total gut clarity: f**k it, I wasn’t going to apologise for disbelieving Meghan Markle, because the truth is that I don’t believe Meghan Markle… I called Kevin back, said I wouldn’t be apologising, and we agreed I’d leave GMB with immediate effect.”
Reflecting on the circumstances of the departure, Lygo added: “Half the world wanted Piers dead and half the world wanted a statue erected in his favor. You need to tread a diplomatic line. Piers felt he was doing the right thing, felt very strongly about it, and we just felt it wasn’t quite compatible with some of the things we’re involved with. It was an amicable split.”
Morgan’s Markle moment helped Good Morning Britain beat BBC Breakfast in the ratings for the first time on March 9, but the show’s audience has slumped in his absence. GMB was watched by 620,000 viewers on Monday, which was down more than half on Morgan’s final audience of 1.3M and was the show’s lowest rating of 2021.