ITV has denied accusations that a woman in a wheelchair was moved aside to make way for presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield as they entered Westminster Hall to see the Queen lying in state.
In a now-deleted tweet quoted by the Mail on Sunday, a member of the public posted on Twitter that her disabled mother had been moved out of the way for Schofield and Willoughby to “make it in time for the 10am slot”.
Posting a picture of the pair, she wrote: “This is a photo taken by my sister’s husband yesterday after he had queued with my sister, their 10-year-old daughter and my disabled mum for 13-plus hours. My mum was ushered out of @hollywills and @schofe way so they could #queuejumpers without even a thanks #schofieldgate #queuejumping.”
The Mail on Sunday also claims that the This Morning hosts were not on the accreditation list to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state, but that the names of their production team had been used to help them gain access to Westminster Hall.
In a statement, an ITV representative said: “This Morning asked Phillip and Holly to attend Westminster Hall to make a report on the Queen lying in state as part of a wider piece around the death of the monarch.
“They followed all restrictions and guidelines and attended the media area, entering via the media centre door, in a professional capacity alongside many other broadcasters and media. They neither jumped the queue nor took anyone’s place in the queue. We asked them to attend and Holly and Phillip continue to have our full support.”
With regards to accreditation, they said: “Phillip and Holly had full accreditation which was organised by the This Morning production team. Any claims otherwise are untrue.”
Schofield and Willoughby have been the subject of criticism since their visit to Westminster Hall on 16 September.
The furore began when their visit was contrasted with that of David Beckham’s on the same day. The former England captain waited in line for almost 14 hours to pay his respects, despite reportedly being offered a pass by an MP to jump the queue.
Responding to the accusations, Willoughby said: “Like hundreds of accredited broadcasters and journalists, we were given special 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 … None of the broadcasters and journalists there took anyone’s place in the queue. We of course respected those rules.”
On the day, the presenters’ TV segment used footage from the official feed because media outlets were not allowed to film inside.
In an 11-minute round-up of events, Willoughby showed pictures of her three children laying flowers at Buckingham Palace, as well as a letter that her daughter Belle wrote to the late monarch. The pre-recorded segment ended with the pair on Westminster Bridge discussing the visit. “It was one of the most profound moments of my life,” Schofield said.
Since the allegations of queue-jumping first surfaced on social media, more than 70,500 members of the public have signed a petition calling on Schofield and Willoughby to be axed from This Morning.
About a quarter of a million people saw the late monarch’s coffin as she lay in state for four days, according to preliminary figures released by the UK government, with wait times sometimes exceeding 24 hours.
The controversy over the allegations came up during the Labour conference, with the party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, expressing concern for their welfare after they received a barrage of social media abuse.
She said: “I’ve been worried about them because even though they are celebrities ... they are human beings and I just think, ‘Wow.’ The way in which the online attack on them, as a human being … to have that, I just think, is really damaging.”