Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield have enjoyed national treasure status for years. As ITV’s highest-paid presenters, the besties giggle their way through This Morning and bring in a million viewers each day. But last week, that came crashing down as they were accused of “disrespectful” and “disgusting” behaviour, after a clip went viral of them appearing to skip the queue to see the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall. Now, Holly is in crisis talks as she fights to save her career amid mounting calls for her to be sacked. “Holly’s had one of her worst weeks ever,” says an insider close to the pair, who have presented ITV’s flagship daytime show together since 2009.
“There’s so much hate directed at her right now, and she can’t even bring herself to look at social media to see what people are saying. She’s just doing her best to stay focused, keep smiling and try to move on from the backlash.
It doesn’t seem to bother Phil so much, but Holly’s used to having this perfect reputation. She’s been hit really hard
by all this hostility and anger.”
And the worst could be to come, as at time of press, an online petition demanding the pair be sacked topped 60,000 signatures. “Some people at This Morning genuinely think Holly might get axed over this,” says a source close to the 41 year old. “The only reason she has that job is because she and Phil are so beloved by the public. If that changes, there would be no reason to renew their multi-million-pound contracts. Holly’s hoping the public will forgive and forget. If she loses her job, it could hurt all her brand deals, as well as other TV jobs, like Dancing On Ice. It could basically destroy her whole empire.”
The outrage kicked off last week when a TikTok user posted footage of the ITV veterans being led by security past the crowds – who waited as long as 14 hours to pay their respects to the late monarch – and into the hall. “The moment Holly and Phil jumped the queue,” read the caption on the clip, viewed more than two million times, with 6,000 comments. Appalled fans rushed to attack the pair, with one complaining, “My 76 year old parents and wife queued for nine hours overnight last night and you and Phil just waltz in. Takes the p-ss really.”
Another said, “What a shame you couldn’t show the respect… and queue up like everyone else today, rather than adopt a sense of self-importance and jump the queue. I’ve a feeling it will turn out to be a major mistake in the popularity stakes for you and Phillip Schofield. Shame on you both.” Others called for the pair to lose their jobs, with one viewer tweeting, “Like this tweet if you think Holly and Phil should get sacked from #ThisMorning following QueueGate.” Another added, “Phil and Holly should be sacked”.
Even celebrities threw shade, with Mel B telling Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid – who queued for seven hours with her elderly mum – “No queue jumping for you.” CBB star Kim Woodburn also slammed Phil and Holly, saying, “People don’t like them – go! They’re a horrible pair of people.” It followed other celebrities including David Beckham, Sharon Osbourne, Tilda Swinton and singer James Blunt queuing for hours on end to pay their respects.
Mum-of-three Holly read out a statement during This Morning, insisting she and Phil, 60, would “never jump a queue,” explaining that they were working. She 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.” She added that they “didn’t take anyone’s place in the queue and no one filed past the Queen. We of course respected those rules.” But she did concede, “We realise that it may have looked like something else, and therefore totally understand the reaction.”
Many were quick to question their “reporting” explanation, pointing out that no camera crews were allowed into Westminster Hall, and the only footage broadcast on This Morning was of the pair outside the Hall, saying it was a “profound moment.” However, some accepted the explanation with one fan defending, “It was a media entrance!!! I’m sure a lot more people used that entrance, but aren’t getting slated for it!!” While another added, “They were there for work and didn’t pass the Queen lying in state. What is wrong with people?” Many were also concerned for Holly as the week went on, with viewers of This Morning saying she looked like she’d been “up all night crying,” while another asked, “Is Holly OK? She’s not looking herself.” And, as reports emerged that Holly had called in her lawyers over the damaging claims, her friend Piers Morgan admitted Holly was “absolutely distraught” over the vitriol.
It follows a tricky time professionally for the star, who has also faced a backlash over her new lifestyle brand, where a Wylde Moon candle costs £60. She and Phil also faced complaints when they hosted a competition on the ITV show to pay viewers’ energy bills as part of their Spin To Win prize giveaway, a stunt branded “disgusting” and a “dystopian spectacle”.
heat’s insider continues, “Holly’s been in crisis talks with her team all week, and is now on a massive charm offensive. She’s keenly aware that all it would take is one more false move to topple her from the top spot at ITV. There are so many rivals snapping at her heels and there have been plenty trying to stir the pot this week. It feels like a lot of people are out to get her and she’s genuinely so scared right now.
“She’s worked so hard to cultivate her career over the years, and it feels like she’s being judged a little unfairly. All she can do right now is keep smiling and pray that it all blows over as soon as possible.”