Actress Miriam Margolyes sparked more than 240 complaints to Ofcom after saying she “wanted Boris Johnson to die” from coronavirus during a controversial appearance on Channel 4’s The Last Leg.
The broadcasting watchdog has yet to decide whether to launch an investigation into the comments made by the BAFTA-winning Harry Potter star, which were broadcast on the comedy chat show on Friday.
Asked by host Adam Hills how she thought the government had responded to the coronavirus, Margolyes said the pandemic had been handled “appallingly” and admitted she “had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die”.
She added: “I wanted him to die. Then I thought that will reflect badly on me, and I don’t want to be the sort of person that wants people to die. So then I wanted him to get better, which he did do, he did get better.”
Margolyes had dialled into the programme remotely just over a week after Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street following his recovery from COVID-19.
The prime minister spent a week in hospital with persistent symptoms of the virus last month, including a number of days in intensive care, and then spent two weeks recovering at his country retreat Chequers.
After being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Mr Johnson said there was “no question” that the NHS saved his life and admitted that at one stage “things could have gone either way”.
Ofcom said it had received 241 complaints about Margolyes’ appearance on The Last Leg, adding: “We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, but are yet to decide whether or not to investigate.”
Regular panellists including comedian Josh Widdicombe appeared stunned by the comments, which were widely condemned on social media.
Among those to call Margolyes out was Piers Morgan, who branded her comments “disgusting”, although other viewers left angry by the government’s response to coronavirus praised the 78-year-old for her honesty.
Margolyes has been an outspoken critic of the government beyond its handling of the ongoing health crisis, and endorsed the then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the general election last December.
After two weeks back in Downing Street, Mr Johnson has started to outline how the UK may recover from COVID-19, although his new guidance on relaxing parts of the lockdown have been labelled “unclear”.
He is expected to try to clarify the tweaked measures, such as encouraging those who cannot work from home to return to the workplace, when he faces MPs in the House of Commons later.