Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield have said they ‘understand the reaction’ following an angry backlash over claims they skipped the queue to see the Queen lie in state in Westminster Hall.
The TV stars said they they acknowledged the strength of feeling but refused to apologise, claiming they were at the venue to work as broadcasters for the people who couldn’t be there themselves.
But viewers have called for them to say sorry after many other celebrities spent hours waiting in line to see the Queen.
Among those who waited their turn in the queue, dubbed the ‘Elizabeth Line’ were David Beckham and even Holly and Phil’s ITV colleague Susanna Reid, from GMB.
Clips last week showed Holly and Phil walking through Westminster Hall last week as around 250,000 people waited to bid a final farewell to the Queen – many waiting up to 24 hours for the opportunity.
ITV bosses were said to be locked in a crisis over whether to use the segment filmed by the pair at Westminster following the backlash.
The segment was eventually shown on today’s programme, which included short clips from inside Westminster Hall, and the pair talking about what it was like to see the Queen lie in state.
However, suggestions that the This Morning hosts were able to jump the queue sparked outrage on social media, and a petition was launched calling for ITV bosses to ‘axe’ the daytime TV favourites – with 15,000 people now demanding they must go.
Viewers also pointed out the pair were not journalists, and had only made a short video from their time spent at Westminster Hall.
In the first show since the incident, Holly and Phil strongly denied claims of line-jumping and said they had been in Westminster Hall to work
Members of the public have condemned the TV stars for walking through Westminster Hall without waiting in the queue
Holly and Phil filmed themselves speaking about the Queen lying in state at Westminster
This Morning broadcast a segment made by Holly and Phil from the Queen’s lying-in-state, which included their response to the queue-jumping controversy
The ITV stars said they totally ‘understand the reaction’ but insisted ‘we would never jump a queue’
However, in the first episode of the show since then, Holly and Phil argued they had been there to work and had not skipped the queue.
They said: ‘Like hundreds of accredited broadcasters and journalists we were given official permission to access the hall.
‘It was strictly for the purpose of reporting on the event for millions of people in the UK who have not been able to visit Westminster in person.
‘The rules were that we would be quickly escorted around the edges to a platform at the back.
‘In contrast, those paying respect walked along a carpeted area beside the coffin and were given time to pause.
‘None of the broadcasters and journalists there took anyone’s place in the queue and no one filed past the Queen. We of course respected those rules.
‘However, we realise that it may have looked like something else, and therefore totally understand the reaction.
‘Please know that we would never jump a queue.’
Over 15,000 people have signed a petition demanding the pair are sacked from ITV following the incident.
The author of the petition lashed out at the TV stars for being ‘able to push past thousands [in the queue] and get immediate access.’
They also claimed ‘ITV should be ashamed of exploiting the situation.’
Among those waiting in the five-mile long line was footballing legend David Beckham, who turned down the option to skip the queue to stand in line for 13 hours to see the Queen.
This Morning viewers took to social media to vent their fury over Holly and Phil’s response to the controversy
Fellow ITV host Susannah Reid also declined the option of a ‘fast track’ and chose to wait in line late into the night to reach Westminster Hall.
Viewers have reacted angrily to Holly and Phil’s ‘so-called explanation’ of seeing the Queen lie in state without having to wait in line, with many accusing them of ‘disrespectful behaviour.’
One viewer said: ‘I’m afraid that so-called explanation was way off the mark.
‘At the end of the day, Holly and Phil got to see, experience and feel that atmosphere and moment, all with the privilege of no queue. Us Brits are all about fairness. This wasn’t.’
Another added: ‘You are NOT journalists and your excuse for being allowed in didn’t stand up.
One This Morning viewer was even stronger in their condemnation, saying: ‘Absolutely disgusting. Tuned in for the last time today to give them both the opportunity to be honest and apologise to the viewers for thinking they are more important.
‘Instead they decided to keep going with the lies and disrespectful behaviour.
Footballing legend Beckham was praised for waiting almost 14 hours in the line to see the Queen
David Beckham wiped a tear from his eye on Friday as he approached the Queen’s coffin after waiting in the five-mile-long queue
David Beckham leaves Westminster Hall escorted by police after paying a touching tribute to Her Majesty
Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen accompanied by three of his young children last week using the ‘fast track’ system
An astonishing 250,000 people queued to see the Queen lie in state in Westminster Hall
‘You claimed you were reporting for the world when it was literally on every channel. Just apologise, hold your hands up and say you were wrong.’
Holly and Phil’s response has led to renewed calls for them to be removed from This Morning.
One viewer said online: ‘Really think I TV should think seriously about sacking Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.
‘They’re tone deaf to people’s feelings and sensitivities thinking they can arrogantly laugh things off.’
While the Queen was lying in state, others were able to jump the enormous queue which stretched across London and could even be seen from space.
The 650 MPs were permitted to jump ahead of the queue, as well as members of the House of Lords.
Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen accompanied by three of his young children last week using the ‘fast track’ system, as was former prime minister Theresa May and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner.
Fellow ITV presenter Susannah Reid, 51, who is the host of Good Morning Britain, waited seven hours with her mother on Thursday (pictured together left descending the stairs)
Paying her respects: Tilda Swinton, 61, cut a sombre figure as she bowed her head while visiting the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall in London
Some parliamentary staff were also permitted to beat the crowds. However, it was pointed out that cleaners and security guards who work in Parliament had been told to queue as they are employed by contractors.
The House of Commons said priority lay with the public. In a statement, it said: ‘It is not possible to open up further access (for staffers) without the risk of impacting access for queueing members of the public.’
Royal sources told the Mail that the 1,200 plus royal staff who worked for the Queen, many of whom who have been on duty since she died, would have appreciated the chance to pay their respects.
ITV earlier insisted Holly and Phil were filming in Westminster Hall and that a segment of them there would be shown on this Tuesday’s programme – which will be broadcast after the Queen’s funeral.
The channel also confirmed that the pair filmed mourners queuing to pay their respects before and after they entered the VIP entrance – but at no point joined them.
The channel said they didn’t file past the coffin but instead stood in the press pen, which is much further away, for 30 minutes.
Television insiders have voiced surprise at why This Morning would screen a report from the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall a day after her funeral and burial takes place, making it old news by Tuesday.
ITV responded by saying that the pair – who have personal assistants and a big production team – failed to send their requests for accreditation in time to go any earlier.