‘This is a public flogging!’: Piers Morgan defends Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield over Queuegate and ‘ridiculous’ petition to have them sacked – as This Morning hosts battle to keep their jobs amid growing backlash
- Piers said that calls for Holly and Phillip to be sacked were ‘ridiculous’ and the scandal was ‘overblown’
- Holly reportedly brought in lawyers over ‘damaging’ view that her and Phillip Schofield ‘jumped the line’
- She and co-presenter Phillip have been ‘dumbstruck’ by public backlash over ‘skipping queue’
- ITV stars were filmed appearing to jump the queue to see the Queen lying in state at Westminster Hall
- Pair ‘begged’ ITV bosses to address the Friday scandal sooner, leaving Holly in tears over the backlash
- Both deny skipping the queue, and instead say they entered hall in their capacity as broadcasters
Piers Morgan has waded into Queuegate as he called for an end to the ‘public flogging’ after This Morning’s Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were accused of ‘jumping the line’ to see the Queen lying in state at the Palace of Westminster.
The 57-year-old broadcaster insisted the reaction had been ‘overblown’ as he called on the petition to get them sacked – which has now reached more than 33,000 signatures – to be axed.
‘Distraught Holly has reportedly called in the lawyers over the ‘damaging’ public view surrounding herself and co-host Phillip and the pair are battling to keep her job amid the growing fury over allegations they ‘abused their positions to see the Queen lie in state’.
Offering his thoughts on the matter, he said on Piers Morgan Uncensored: ‘All hell broke loose about this, they have been subject to, I think, a ridiculously over-the-top campaign. Of course they shouldn’t be fired, it’s ridiculous.
‘It may have been a misjudgment. I said myself on this show, I don’t think anyone should have been jumping the queue full stop, whoever you are, unless you are a world leader and there is a time issue.’
‘This is a public flogging!’: Piers Morgan defended Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield over Queuegate and the ‘ridiculous’ petition to have them sacked as the This Morning hosts battle to keep their jobs after being accused of skipping The Queue
He continued: ‘Full disclosure, I’m a good friend of Holly’s. I feel very sorry for her – she’s absolutely distraught over the reaction and genuinely there was clearly in her head a blurring of the line about work – if you’re working – covering it – I think a lot of journalists went through it.’
Piers also touched on the fact that several people had taken advantage of rules that allowed MPs and Peers to skip the queue while accredited members of the media were able to gain access to the Hall without queuing.
He noted: ‘Theresa May jumped the queue and no one batted an eyelid… Angela Rayner jumped the queue. I don’t think this public flogging that’s going on… this has got a bit out of hand!
Piers then touched on the ‘funny memes’ that have arisen as a result of the scandal, referencing a tweet from Domino’s Pizza that quipped: ‘Apologies to anyone waiting on their pizza, we’ve just received an order from Holly and Phil #ThisMorning.’
He advised, ‘The best thing they can probably both do is have a laugh and get on with it’, before going on to reference when he quit as co-host of ITV’s breakfast show Good Morning Britain last year after critical remarks he made about the Duchess of Sussex’s mental health prompted an on-air row with a colleague and an Ofcom investigation.
Upsetting: ‘Holly had to get lawyers over the weekend over the presentation of this false, very damaging narrative’ over images that emerged on Friday which appeared to show they ‘skipped the queue’ while thousands of mourners waited
He concluded on Piers Morgan Uncensored – which airs Monday to Thursday on TalkTV: ‘The venom of social media… I’ve been on the receiving end of it. I used to do a morning show [GMB] before them in the studio opposite and had to vacate mine for saying I didn’t believe Princess Pinocchio [Meghan Markle] – the world’s gone nuts! Let’s end the petition.’
Piers comments come after a source told The Sun on Tuesday evening that ‘Holly had to get lawyers over the weekend over the presentation of this false, very damaging narrative’ over images that emerged on Friday which appeared to show they ‘skipped the queue’ while tens of thousands of mourners patiently waited to pay their respects to Her Majesty.
It was also revealed that Holly was reportedly in floods of tears as she and Phil – who are said to be paid as much as £600,000 for hosting the popular daytime show from Mondays to Thursdays – both begged This Morning bosses to defend them from the ensuing storm.
The pair addressed the controversy themselves during Tuesday’s episode of This Morning – the first time the show had aired since the images were released.
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.’
Speaking out: The pair addressed the controversy themselves during Tuesday’s episode of This Morning – the first time the show had aired since the images were released
A source close to Holly told MailOnline on Tuesday that they ‘spent most of today speaking to producers about queue-gate, they have assured her that viewer reaction has not been as bad as the social media fallout.
‘Many show insiders still fear what the future may hold but bosses seem to have calmed her down from the weekend where she was very upset about the whole thing. The row has only brought her close to Philip too.’
MailOnline had exclusively revealed that panicking bosses at This Morning were worried that Holly was so distraught by ITV’s failure to act sooner that she might quit.
Holly is currently contracted to stay on the ITV show until 2023, which would mean she’s been anchor on the programme for 14 years.
She is currently being wooed by BBC bosses to front a series of reality shows for the corporation, and last month, The Mail On Sunday revealed that Holly has been offered a big-money deal by the BBC to host its new version of the iconic show Gladiators.
Holly’s recent BBC reality show, Freeze The Fear With Wim Hof, was so popular it has already agreed to commission a second series, which she will host again alongside former cricketer Freddie Flintoff.
The mother-of-three – who is married to TV producer Dan Baldwin – has also branched out of TV with her wellness brand Wylde Moon, which she launched last year.
On film: Holly and Phillip were seen in a video posted on TikTok leaving Westminster Hall after they carried out filming and were accused of jumping the queue
Yet despite the fears she would be quitting her position, it later emerged that Holly will not be leaving, with a source telling The Sun: ‘She has been devastated by all the negative reaction after she turned up to work at Westminster Hall with Phil on Friday, but she’s not going to resign. This Morning has been her life for more than a decade and the only way she’d consider quitting at this stage is if viewers really didn’t want her there.
‘She’s tried to give their side of the story on the show today and they’re both hoping to move on from it now. Bosses know Holly is still a hit with viewers and are counting on her working her magic on the show for a good while yet.’
An ITV source said: ‘We absolutely made it clear at the time that it was part of a broadcast due to air on Tuesday. This was communicated from the outset, and we gave this information immediately. There have been no crisis discussions or talks about Holly not being part of This Morning moving forward.’
MailOnline understands that the pair personally insisted that fiasco be addressed at the start of the show and believe ITV should not have waited so long to speak out on the matter – spending the weekend ‘locked in talks’ with TV producers.
Minister reveals around 250,000 paid their respects to the Queen at Westminster Hall
Around a quarter of a million people were able to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state – lower than the 400,000 some had estimated.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan gave the figure after the former monarch was laid to rest in an emotional day of pomp and ceremony yesterday.
However, it immediately sparked questions about the arrangements for the Westminster Hall tributes.
The Parliament website says 320,000 people viewed Winston Churchill’s coffin at his lying in state in 1965, which lasted for three days rather than four and a half this time. Some 300,000 are said to have paid respects to George VI in 1952.
Sources pointed to airport-style security requirements as one factor, and also suggested the tally – which has yet to be finalised – was much more ‘robust’ than for previous events.
One source told MailOnline that historical estimates need to be treated with a ‘pinch of salt’. ‘It seems there has been a never-ending ratchet by previous Black Rods to want each number to increase every time there is a lying in state,’ they said.
Ms Donelan described the queue for Westminster Hall as ‘phenomenal’, as she paid tribute to the volunteers who helped manage and support the proceedings of recent days, including the lying-in-state.
She told Sky News ‘more than 250,000’ viewed the coffin but officials were still ‘crunching the final numbers’.
Ms Donelan told BBC Breakfast: ‘There’s no dress rehearsal is there for this kind of scenario. It has been in the plans for years, but obviously we stress-tested everything and worked with community groups.’
Ms Donelan said that most British people would see the cost of the Queen’s funeral as ‘money well spent’, but could not put a figure on what that cost might be.
Pressed on Sky News about the cost of the funeral, she said: ‘I’m not sure of the exact costings but as I say, I think the British public would argue that that was money well spent.
‘You saw so many thousands out there and I don’t think anybody can suggest that our late monarch didn’t deserve that send-off, given the duty and the selfless service that she committed to over 70 years.’
She said it would be ‘downright preposterous’ to suggest otherwise.
‘It was great sense of the community coming together. I always think of our late monarch as the glue that brought society together,’ she added.
A source revealed: ‘Philip and Holly are dumbstruck at the level of anger they’ve received in the past few days. They felt ITV should have made it clearer, right away, that it was part of a broadcast.’
But comparisons were quickly made to other celebrities who queued for hours with the general public – including England football legend David Beckham and even Holly and Phil’s ITV colleague Susanna Reid, from news show Good Morning Britain.
A Change.org petition, titled ‘Axe Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby from TV’ was started on Friday and has been gaining traction as people criticised the pair.
It argues morning TV has been ‘monopolised too long’ by the show and claims they should not get ‘privileges’ ordinary people cannot enjoy.
A source told The Sun: ‘Holly would be the first to hold up her hands and quit if she disrespected the public.
‘She was doing her job but has been portrayed as enemy No1, while Phil has been subject to embarrassing memes.
‘She will not quit. She and Phil love This Morning. They do not want to lose their jobs over this, and just hope things will blow over.’
It was revealed on Tuesday that around 250,000 people paid their respects in person to the Queen by seeing her coffin – with all of them having to queue for hours. Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan gave the figure the morning after the nation’s longest-reigning monarch was buried at Windsor Castle.
Speaking of the anger directed at Holly and Phil, the insider continued: ‘When they started being bombarded with messages via social media they were simply stunned. They’ve been left astonished at the way the whole thing has mushroomed.
‘That’s the main reason they wanted something to be said on Saturday [when This Morning issued a statement] and why they were insistent the show needed to address it head on on Tuesday.
‘Holly, in particular, has been left totally distraught by this. She’s been in floods of tears at some of the things she’s been called and of the behaviour she’s been accused of.
‘She’d never jump a queue or behave in that way and is heartbroken that people think she would.
‘Producers and staff at This Morning are rallying round. They are a close knit team but there is a concern at how it has impacted on Holly and has left many wondering if it’s pushed her close to the exit.’
An ITV source told MailOnline: ‘We absolutely made it clear that it was part of a broadcast due to air on Tuesday, from the outset.’
ITV declined to comment when approached by MailOnline. Holly and Phillip’s representatives have not immediately responded to requests for comment.
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.
Suggestions that the This Morning hosts were able to jump the queue sparked outrage on social media.
A Twitter user wrote: ‘So Phil and Holly got a fast track to the coffin and didn’t have the common decency to queue along with many elderly or British citizens or even David Beckham. They should feel embarrassed and ashamed, it’s not Alton Towers.’
Another said: ‘Holly and Phil. Hang your heads in shame. Totally disgusted in you ‘queue jumping’ no excuse for it whatsoever.’
The hashtag #thismourning was also trending on Twitter, as well as Schofield’s advert slogan ‘We buy any car.com’ being changed to ‘we jump any queue.com’.
As backlash began to mount ITV insisted Holly and Phil were filming in Westminster Hall and that a segment of them there would be shown on this Tuesday’s programme.
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.
Backlash: This Morning viewers took to social media to vent their fury over Holly and Phil’s response to the controversy
On Saturday evening, ITV bosses bosses posted a statement on Instagram that read: ‘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.’
Television insiders then 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.
Several celebrities were spotted joining The Queue over the course of the week, including Tilda Swinton, James Blunt and Strictly’s Neil Jones.
Footballing legend David Beckham turned down the option to skip the queue to stand in line for 13 hours to see the Queen.
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.
New direction: The mother-of-three – who is married to TV producer Dan Baldwin – has branched out of TV with her wellness brand Wylde Moon, which she launched last year
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.
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.
Fuming: When the queue jumping claims first emerged, social media users took to Twitter to slam Holly and Phil
Following their explanation on Tuesday’s show, viewers 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. 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.’
Statement: On Saturday, This Morning bosses denied show hosts Holly and Phillip had ‘VIP access’ and filed ‘past the Queen lying in state’
Holly and Phil’s response also 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.
Holly and Phillip’s ‘queue jumping’ scandal comes hot on the heels of yet another This Morning blunder, when viewers were left aghast after they introduced a new twist to its popular Spin to Win game.
They revealed that the popular wheel-turning game had a new prize, where the show would cover winning players’ energy bills until the end of the year.
Former This Morning co-star Eamonn Holmes aims dig at Holly and Phil over queue-jumping claims
Eamonn Holmes made a savage dig at Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby after it was claimed they jumped the queue at Westminster Hall in London last week to film a segment for This Morning while the late Queen lie in state.
With reports the five-mile long queue of members of the public waiting to view the monarch’s coffin had been closed for six hours on Friday, boosting the wait time to ‘at least 14 hours’, the TV duo were said to have joined a separate line and were taken into a press gallery to film for Tuesday’s instalment of the ITV show.
During an appearance on GB News this week, Eamonn, 62 – who has made no secret of his ongoing feud with Phillip after he and his wife Ruth Langsford were axed from presenting This Morning on Friday – made a joke about Phil and Holly in reference to their alleged queue-jumping.
Eamonn’s GB News co-host Isabel Webster, 39, introduced a guest, saying: ‘[They] suffered that queue and they were not of any insignificant age, we’ll be talking to them after this.’
Jumping at the opportunity to criticise Phil and Holly, Eamonn chimed in: ‘What, Holly and Phillip?’
The game, which is a frequent fixture of the show, sees Phil spinning the wheel for the players on the phone. The wheel will stop on their prize, which usually includes lump sums from between £1,000 and £3,000.
Yet viewers were divided over the show’s offer to cover four months of energy bills, calling the move ‘dystopian,’ and a reflection of the ‘dire state’ of the cost of living crisis.
The following day, the pair announced they had changed the prize to ‘household bills’ with Phillip addressing the criticism by scoffing: ‘I wonder how much of that they can complain about online.’
After yet more backlash the game was eventually reverted to offer monetary prizes only once again.
It was back in 2002, when he was 40, that Phillip finally hit the big time after This Morning presenter John Leslie was sacked. Phillip, who had been on the rota of presenters who filled in on Fridays, was given the job full-time.
Fern Britton was already in the chair, and viewers were convinced that they had natural chemistry. She appeared, if anything, to be the senior figure on the show.
However in March 2009 she surprised many by announcing she would be moving on in order to spend time with her family.
It turned out that much angst had been generated by the fact Phillip was being paid three times as much as her — she was on £700,000 a year for presenting the show, while Schofield was being paid a colossal combined sum of £2 million a year, for fronting This Morning, Dancing on Ice and All Star Mr & Mrs.
Fern was said to have been particularly angry when she discovered Schofield was paid £45,000 for All Star Mr & Mrs — while she was paid just £15,000.
The appointment of Holly as Fern’s replacement was, reportedly, at his suggestion. He had enjoyed working with her on Dancing On Ice.
The pair have become one of the nation’s most popular TV double acts since then, with This Morning winning a host of awards.
Phil’s rise to stardom began with his stints presenting children’s TV shows, such as Going Live!, which ran on Saturday mornings between 1987 and 1993.
He made the jump to television for adults with programmes such as Schofield’s Quest and Schofield’s TV Gold, as well as Ten Ball.
Holly’s own path to stardom also began in children’s TV, with her first presenting stint coming on the show Xchange. She also fronted CBBC at the Fame Academy.
In 2006 she was chosen to present Dancing On Ice with Phil, which further raised her profile before she got the role on This Morning.
Inappropriate: Holly and Phillip’s ‘queue jumping’ scandal comes hot on the heels of yet another This Morning blunder, when introduced a new twist to its popular Spin to Win game