In a pre-recorded segment at the opening of the show on Tuesday morning, the duo took viewers through a montage of events that took place since the Queen’s death on Sept. 8, from the news breaking to her lying-in-state in Westminster Hall last week.
Alongside footage of Schofield and Willoughby outside Westminster Hall, where they spoke to members of the public who had queued to see the Queen, Willoughby said in a voice-over: “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 U.K. who haven’t been able to visit Westminster in person.”
“The rules were that we would be quickly escorted around the edges to a platform to the back. In contrast, those paying respects 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 realize it may have looked like something else and therefore totally understand the reaction. Please know that we would never jump a queue.”
Footage of Schofield and Willoughby was captured last week as they walked into Westminster Hall via the press line, causing instant outrage online as they were accused of queue-jumping. Other celebrities, including the anchors’ ITV co-star Susanna Reid, soccer star David Beckham and even actor Tilda Swinton were all seen queuing overnight in a bid to pay their final respects to the Queen as she lay-in-state for five days before her funeral on Monday.
Such was the outrage over Schofield and Willoughby’s apparent queue jumping that “This Morning” was forced to issue a statement via Instagram in Sunday, in which the team wrote: “Hello everyone, we would like to clarify something. We asked Phillip and Holly to be part of a film for this Tuesday’s programme. They did not jump the queue, have VIP access or file past the Queen lying in state – but instead were there in a professional capacity as part of the world’s media to report on the event.”
The statement did little to assuage viewers, however, with one even launching a petition titled: “Axe Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby from TV,” which has so far gathered over 14,000 signatures.
“Thousands of people are lining up overnight to pay respects to the Queen, where they will likely wait up to 24 hours,” the petition reads. “Yet Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield, two hosts of one of the most damaging to mental health day time tv show This Morning, were able to push past those thousands and get immediate access. ITV should be ashamed of exploiting the situation. I’d like to see This Morning axed for good as I do believe it causes more harm than good, without people noticing.”
Unsurprisingly, the queue-jumping accusations also resulted in thousands of memes and jokes on Twitter, while others called into question the duo’s journalism credentials.
“The most shocking news about Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby jumping the queue was the revelation that apparently they are actually journalists,” wrote Twitter user George Bradley.
Meanwhile Pip Madley posted a clip from Mr Bean of Rowan Atkinson running past a long queue of people, including stepping over someone in a sleeping bag, before taking his place at the front with the caption: “Phillip Schofield arriving to see the Queen lying-in-state.”
The controversy comes just weeks after Schofield and Willoughby participated in a gameshow style segment in which contestants could win having their energy bills paid for four months. The segment, which came amid a cost-of-living crisis engulfing the U.K., was widely criticized, with one viewer even comparing it to “The Hunger Games.”