Piers Morgan defends Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield over queue jump scandal
Watch: Piers Morgan defends Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield over 'jump the queue' controversy
Piers Morgan has defended Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield over claims they jumped the queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state.
The This Morning stars have now issued a statement insisting they attended Westminster Hall "strictly for the purpose of reporting on the event", while others queued for hours to pay their respects before the late Queen's coffin.
Read more: Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield break silence over 'queue jumping' accusations
Morgan said on his TalkTV show Uncensored: "Full disclosure, I am a good friend with Holly and I feel very sorry, she is absolutely distraught I think about the reaction."
Defending the This Morning presenters he said: "All hell broke loose about this, they have been subject to, I think, a ridiculously over-the-top campaign.
"20,000 people have signed a petition to have them fired. 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."
A petition calling for Willoughby and Schofield to be axed from television has now been signed by over 32,000 people.
The author of the petition said: "ITV should be ashamed of exploiting the situation... it's about the TV show being toxic and these presenters being given privileges that deprive others, and humiliate their own viewers in the process."
Video footage showed Willoughby, 41, and Schofield, 60, dressed in black and wearing official lanyards as they were ushered through Westminster Hall — where the late Queen's coffin lay ahead of her funeral — while others queues for hours, sometimes through the night, to pay their respects.
Willoughby said in a statement on the show: "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 haven't 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 respects walked along a carpeted area beside the coffin and were given time to pause.
"We of course respected those rules however we realise that it may have looked like something else and therefore we totally understand the reaction.
"Please know that we would never jump a queue."
ITV said previously in a statement on social media: “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.”
Read more: Celebrities who queued to see the Queen from David Beckham to Susanna Reid
Former England captain David Beckham and Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid were among the famous faces who waited several hours to see the Queen lying in state.