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Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were keen to issue a public apology over ‘queue-gate’, but were talked out of it after taking legal advice, MailOnline can reveal.
A statement was issued by ITV on Saturday and later broadcast on Tuesday’s This Morning, which was voiced over by Holly, 41, but both stopped short of using the word ‘sorry’ – a move which has left many viewers furious.
A source told MailOnline: ‘Every word of the statement was poured over. In the end, it’s spectacularly backfired.
‘Initially Holly and Phillip were prepared to say sorry if they’d upset anyone as they both just desperately want to draw a line under the affair. But they were advised strongly not to go down that road of saying sorry.’
‘It’s spectacularly backfired’: Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were keen to issue a public apology over ‘queue-gate’, but were talked out of it after taking legal advice, MailOnline can reveal
This comes as a petition to have the under-fire television duo fired from their lucrative presenting roles on This Morning reached over 50,000 signatures.
Such has been the backlash to the pair that TV insiders are raising ‘serious concerns’ about the presenters’ wellbeing after they appeared tearful and muted on This Morning this week.
In the first episode of the show since the row unfolded, Holly and Phil, 60, strongly denied viewers’ claims they were ‘too posh to queue’ and said they had been in Westminster Hall on Friday ‘strictly for the purpose of reporting on the event.’
The voiceover also hammered home the point, ‘Please know that we would never jump a queue.’
However some social media users were not convinced and there have been calls for the pair to issue an apology.
Caught on camera: Holly and Phil were pictured entering the hall through a door which was clearly marked as not for public access – thought to be the entrance for media representatives
Inside the hall: Holly and Phil have faced growing backlash over claims they ‘skipped the queue’ at Westminster Hall – they deny the claims and say they were given official permission to access the hall
ITV has since doubled down in the row over footage which seemed to show them filing past the Queen’s coffin – but Holly is said to have been hit particularly hard by online backlash and feels they have been ‘left out to dry’, sources previously said.
Channel bosses are standing by the presenters and have raised ‘real and serious’ concerns about their welfare following the ‘relentless’ online trolling, The Mirror reports.
The popular TV hosts – who are reportedly paid as much as £600,000 for presenting the daytime show from Mondays to Thursdays – have faced growing fury after images of them appearing to ‘skip the line’ emerged on Friday while tens of thousands of mourners patiently waited for more than 12 hours to pay their respects to Her Majesty.
Viewers tweeted accusations the hosts were ‘too posh to queue’ and a change.org petition to axe the presenters has surpassed 50,000 signatures as viewers appear to reject the stars’ bid to draw a line under the scandal.
But Holly sparked worry amongst fans on Tuesday after they noticed she looked like she was ‘on the verge of tears’ and had ‘never been so quiet.’
A clearer view: A photo of Westminster Abbey – highlighting where the media box is, where the public queue is and where Holly and Phil appeared to be walking
A TV source said on Wednesday night: ‘The abuse has been nothing short of disgusting, not least as they have done nothing wrong and were fully entitled to media accreditation so they could inform their viewers.
‘There is huge, real and serious concerns over their wellbeing and ITV are fully supporting them behind the scenes in the face of such relentless trolling. The channel backs them 110 per cent.’
ITV has already publicly backed the pair twice, including in a statement on social media.
Footage inside Westminster Abbey appeared to show Holly and Phil, 60, walking along an area separate from the media box – but ITV has since insisted the stars did not join mourners in filing past the coffin.
Following the images circulating online, 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 Good Morning Britain.
Birdseye view: This graphic of Westminster Abbey shows the areas permitted for the public and media, and the spot where the presenters were seen
Emotional: Fans expressed concern for Holly Willoughby on Wednesday’s episode of This Morning because she looked like she had been ‘up all night crying.’ Viewers tweeted things like: ‘Is Holly ok? She’s not looking herself? #ThisMornin
An ITV spokeswoman has insisted the presenters did not file past the Queen’s coffin.
The spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘This Morning had press accreditation and like other media, Phillip and Holly were escorted to work from the press gallery by government staff. They did not file past The Queen’s coffin.
‘They were there alongside a host of other broadcasters and national press outlets for an item that was broadcast on Tuesday’s (20th) show. Any allegations of improper behaviour are categorically untrue.’
Fans also expressed concern for Holly on Wednesday’s episode of This Morning claiming she looked like she had been ‘up all night crying’.
MailOnline revealed that the presenters also shared an emotional SOS phone call about the ‘devastating’ fierce public backlash.
Snap happy: Holly and Phil outside the Houses of Parliament. The pair say none of the broadcasters and journalists at the Queen’s lying-in-state took anyone’s place in the queue
On the move: Holly and Phil were seen in a video posted on TikTok leaving Westminster Hall after they carried out filming and were accused of jumping the queue
On Tuesday’s episode of This Morning – the first since ‘queue-gate’ began, Holly and Phil issued a lengthy denial that they had jumped the queue.
In a voiceover over a package of the pair at Westminster Hall, Holly explained: ‘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.’
Gaining traction: The change.org petition calling for the presenters to be axed is getting more and more signatures as time goes on
Tense times: Holly and Phil looked serious during their most recent Breakfast programme as insiders say the backlash has taken its toll on the pair
MailOnline understands that the pair personally insisted that the 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.
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.’
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.’
EXCLUSIVE: Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield shared ’emotional phone call after she felt worried over reaction to ‘queue-gate”
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield shared an emotional SOS phone call about the ‘devastating’ fierce public backlash over ‘queue-gate’, MailOnline can reveal.
A source told MailOnline: ‘Phil and Holly started to become really worried about the situation on Friday night. They spoke at length and decided they had to do something to protect themselves and the reputation of the show.
Following the call ITV issued a statement in a bid to set the record straight – but the move spectacularly backfired.
‘They hoped the statement would take the heat but were totally devastated when they realised it had just made things worse.
‘At one point they considered releasing their own message to set things straight but in the end they decided to wait until the show so they could speak directly to viewers.’
Yet following Holly and Phil’s on-air explanation, some social media users were not convinced, with one saying: ‘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 Brit’s are all about fairness. This wasn’t.’
Another said: ‘Too posh to queue are we?? Who do you think you are?’
However fans of the pair also raised concerns about Holly’s mental health, with one saying: ‘Is Holly ok? She’s not looking herself? #ThisMorning.’
A second said: ‘Holly has never been so quiet. I don’t envy anyone in the public eye #ThisMorning.’
After seeing her looking puffy-eyed on the show, others tweeted: ‘Holly looks like she’s been crying all night #ThisMorning.’
While she and Phillip were smiling throughout the show, they appeared on edge, with Phillip wringing his hands and Holly protectively placing her arms across her body.
Holly is said to be particularly upset over the reaction and ‘has never had to deal with anger and vitriol like this in her life’, with the situation even forcing her off social media as the criticism continues.
But sources dismissed the idea her job might be on the line, or that she might be looking to quit the show, saying the pair felt ‘reassured’ by the channel’s support.
They said: ‘Phil and Holly started to become really worried about the situation on Friday night. They spoke at length and decided they had to do something to protect themselves and the reputation of the show.
‘They hoped the statement would take the heat but were totally devastated when they realised it had just made things worse.
‘At one point they considered releasing their own message to set things straight but in the end they decided to wait until the show so they could speak directly to viewers.
‘Holly has never had to deal with anger and vitriol like this in her life. It’s left her so upset and unable to look at social media over most of the last few days.
‘What was meant to be a lovely tribute to Her Majesty on her Instagram account has been hijacked by trolls. One thing that has come out of this though undamaged is Phil and Holly’s friendship. They’re closer than ever.’
Meanwhile, the change.org petition, titled ‘Axe Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby from TV’ was started on Friday and has continued to gain traction.
Expressing concern: Fans had noticed that Holly looked emotional while on the show
Not impressed: The presenters have been trolled online with viewers suggesting they’re ‘too posh to queue’ – and even Domino’s joined in the criticising
A source told MailOnline: ‘Holly is so disappointed that she’s become the poster girl of this forced narrative. It’s turned into a circus, and she’s been made to face an onslaught of criticism despite not doing anything wrong.
‘Holly has been distraught and she does believe something should have been said sooner to clarify that herself and Phil were working at Westminster Abbey and filming for Tuesday’s episode of This Morning.
‘The problem is that the public doesn’t see Holly as a journalist, they view her as a celebrity, but she was there for professional reasons, not personal.
‘It’s really sad and hugely unfair, this is Holly’s life and her career means everything to her. She has continued to co-host This Morning with Phil every day this week despite facing constant public scrutiny because she’s a professional.
‘She definitely won’t be quitting the show – she has done nothing wrong and there’s no reason for her to feel ashamed.’
The petition 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 Mirror: ‘They’re devastated by the reaction and the way the false claim they skipped the queue took off on social media.
Holly has been in tears, and Phil has been very upset. But they were determined to face the criticism head-on on Tuesday’s show and not shy away from it. They hope they can now draw a line under it, and that people understand the context.
‘The irony of all of this is that they headed down to Westminster to work on their day off on Friday, and spent the entire weekend working on the footage, as they were so determined to deliver extra coverage for the viewers about the Queen.’
Facing the music: During Tuesday’s episode the hosts told viewers they would ‘never jump a queue’ as they addressed the claims following the accusations they were faced with
A source close to Holly told MailOnline that prior to issuing their on-air statement 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.’
A source added to The Sun on Tuesday evening that ‘Holly had to get lawyers over the weekend over the presentation of this false, very damaging narrative’.
‘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,’ the source said.
‘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.’
The latest to wade in on the row is tourist attraction the London Dungeon, who have introduced a limited edition fast track pass called the ‘Holly & Phil’.
Any visitor who asks for a Holly & Phil will be able to jump the queue for no extra cost until this Friday.
A London Dungeon spokesperson said: ‘If you’re too good to queue with the rest of the rabble and demand swift and immediate passage into London’s horrible history, then this is right up your alley.
‘Don’t be making small talk with the measly patiently waiting plebs when you could be on a one-way path to the front of the queue!’
Joining the line: Members of the public can be seen queuing to get into Westminster Abbey, and the media box can be seen at the back
Yet the pair have also received support from celebrity pals, with Piers Morgan intervening on Tuesday night as he called for an end to the ‘public flogging’.
The 57-year-old broadcaster insisted the reaction had been ‘overblown’ as he called on the petition to get them sacked to be axed.
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.’
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.’
It was previously revealed 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.
The Queen lay in state in Westminster Hall for four days, with the last mourners passing through around 6.30am on Monday morning, just hours ahead of Her Majesty’s state funeral.
The final people were admitted to the line to see the Queen’s coffin at about 10.30pm on Sunday, which gave them time to make it through before the closure at 6.30am the following morning. The line was opened at 5pm last Wednesday.
The last member of the public to be allowed in was Christina Heerey, who serves in the Royal Air Force. Members of parliamentary staff then followed her, with a tearful Black Rod Sarah Clarke the last person to walk past the coffin.
The queue to see the late Queen before she was laid to rest peaked at a 25-hour wait, and was as long as five miles, ending in Southwark Park.
Statement: On Saturday, This Morning bosses denied show hosts Holly and Phillip had ‘VIP access’ and filed ‘past the Queen lying in state’
The majority of people waited between 14 and 16 hours to see the coffin, among them former England footballer David Beckham.
David wiped a tear from his eye as he approached the Queen’s coffin following a 13-hour wait on Friday, after admitting to television cameras: ‘I thought it’d be quieter coming at 2am… I was wrong!’
The football legend, 47, was among thousands to join the five-mile queue and purchased a box of doughnuts to share with his fellow mourners, managing to avoid detection for hours because of the ‘mutual respect’ he shared with them.
The former Manchester United striker finally reached the Queen’s coffin at about 3.30pm after lining up for 13 hours, and took just a few seconds to bow his head before moving on to make way for the people behind him.
He revealed that an MP had offered to allow him to skip the queue and enter the hall with them, but he declined the offer.
MPs were given up to four extra tickets to skip the line and enter Westminster Hall to pay their respects – but this sparked backlash after their staff were not entitled to the same treatment.
MPs staff reportedly ‘inundated’ Commons authorities with complaints after discovering they would not be able to jump the line, despite many other parliamentary workers being entitled to do so – including peers, MPs themselves, cleaners and cooks – are able to skip the queue, those working for MPs are not.
Beck of the queue: The majority of people waited between 14 and 16 hours to see the coffin, among them former England footballer David Beckham