Ben Shephard has dubbed his ITV colleagues Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield a "stronger team" since the public's reaction to This Morning's 'queue-gate' has brought the duo's popularity into question.
Catching up with OK! at this year's Pride of Britain Awards on Monday, the Good Morning Britain presenter, 47, admitted he was "aware" of the backlash that his fellow ITV day-time hosts have faced since allegations of cutting the queue to see the Queen's coffin in September.
"Of course I'm aware of what's going on with the public," Ben explained "But I genuinely believe we're [ITV] a stronger team together right now."
The Tipping Point presenter – who also this week exclusively praised his "superhero" GMB pal Kate Garraway amid husband Derek's Covid battle – later heaped praise onto his fellow ITV day-time hosts.
"I love Holly and Phil and I think they do an incredible job. I'm very proud to call them my friends. I look up to them enormously with what they do on a daily basis, and how they do it."
This Morning's lead presenter Holly and Phil were met with uproar from a mass of once-loyal viewers after they were papped jumping the line to see Her Majesty lying-in-state at Westminster Hall.
Thousands of mourners – including Ben's GMB co-host Susanna Reid – were among those who waited in queue with the average wait-time of 16 hours to pay their respects to Her late Majesty.
Holly and Phil were permitted to avoid the lengthy queue to film a segment of their late-morning discussion show, triggering hundreds of viewers to dub the pair "disrespectful".
Earlier this month, the pair were left facing a wave of boos at the National Television Awards when This Morning’s nomination was announced as part of the best Daytime Show shortlist.
When the ITV show, whose stars have remained under fire since the queuing backlash, was announced as winner over the likes of Loose Women and The Repair Shop some audience members weren’t impressed as they booed the This Morning team.
Since the controversial event, ITV studios is said to have some tension, with a source earlier this month telling OK! that the relationship between the presenting pair has noticeably become "extremely awkward" over the past few weeks.
"The atmosphere in the This Morning studio is awful. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife," the source said.
"In my opinion 'queue-gate' has made the relationship between Holly and Phil extremely awkward. He’s become a lot more snappy – on and off set – and Holly is at the end of her tether with his constant interruptions and abruptions."
The source claimed: "The fact that the audience are now noticing it too indicates that big cracks are starting to show.
"Holly has supported Phil greatly over the years – especially with him coming out – but I think the past few weeks have just been too hard for their friendship to come back from."
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