Johnson was being interviewed about the state of Britain’s NHS, at a time of political tensions ahead of Thursday’s vote. Video of the incident was shared on Twitter by ITV’s political correspondent Joe Pike.
“Tried to show @BorisJohnson the picture of Jack Williment-Barr. The 4-year-old with suspected pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital. The prime minister grabbed my phone and put it in his pocket,” Pike tweeted Monday.
The video, which has been watched over 1 million times on Twitter in just a couple of hours sparked widespread concern, with many on social media — including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — accusing Johnson of not caring about the NHS crisis and its impact on the sick and vulnerable.
Pike had been attempting to get Johnson to view a photograph that was sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post by Sarah Williment, the mother of 4-year-old Jack, who was photographed lying on a Leeds hospital floor with an oxygen mask nearby as his family waited for a bed to become available. His mother said: “The NHS is in crisis. There are just not enough beds.”
“He just doesn’t care,” Corbyn tweeted on Monday before retweeting a tweet from journalist Ash Sarkar that reads: “This is how our Prime Minister reacts when presented with the consequences of his party’s policies. We can’t trust him to fix the problems Tories have spent 9 years causing."
Labour lawmaker Angela Rayner called Johnson an “utter disgrace” tweeting: “Do you really want this man running the country for the next 5 years?”
Throughout the video, the prime minister can be seen refusing to look at the photo, adding he had not seen it but “had been told about it by the BBC.”
“This is the photo, this is the photo,” Pike can be heard saying as Johnson attempts to talk about investments for the health service.
“This is a 4-year-old boy, suspected of pneumonia,” Pike continues as Johnson seemingly refuses to look in the direction of the phone the reporter is holding.
“Look at it now,” Pike presses him as a stuttering Johnson says, “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you an interview now,” before launching into a speech about coming conservative plans to invest in the NHS. “I have every sympathy with families,” Johnson says.
“You refuse to look at the photo, you’ve taken my phone and put it in your pocket, prime minister,” Pike says as Johnson can be seen reaching into his left pocket and pulling the phone out while muttering, “I’m sorry.”
When called out by Pike for taking his phone, the prime minister looks down at the screen saying: “It’s a terrible terrible photo, and I apologize obviously to the families and all those having a terrible time in the NHS.”
Britons will vote Thursday in an election expected to be dominated by Brexit issues. The electorate is polarized, with some calling the choice between Johnson and Corbyn the worst in a generation. Johnson remains popular, but is also deeply divisive.
Voting centers across the United Kingdom will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. The result is set to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning, local time.