The Mayor of Basildon has apologised after she was seen using her Apple iPhone during the town's Armed Forces Day celebrations on Saturday.
Pitsea South East Cllr Mo Larkin was spotted by an onlooker tapping on the device while the military salute was taking place at the end of the event outside the Basildon Centre.
Twitter user Paul Green, who took the picture, described it as "absolutely disgusting".
But Cllr Larkin, who lives in Billericay, today said she was actually trying to turn the phone off, but admitted she should have switched it off before the ceremony.
She said the police were contacting her at the time to tell her her partner, Paul Handley, had passed out while driving on the motorway.
He is suffering from the effects of a "tropical disease" picked up on a holiday in Barbados. The pair returned just last week.
"I would like to apologise unreservedly for appearing to be on my phone during the ceremony to mark armed forces day on Saturday," Cllr Larkin said.
"I put my phone in my hand and turned it round because I couldn't see it because the sun was in my eyes
"While I accept it is no excuse I was distracted at the time by the news that my partner had just been rushed to hospital while I was on duty."
Dr Handley was taken to Southend Hospital but discharged later that day having taken the necessary medication. He is now resting at home.
Cllr Larkin added that her partner had been a lieutenant commander in the Navy during the Falklands.
"I was brought up with the Army, and I wouldn't show that sort of disrespect," she added.
"I always have had, and continue to have, only the highest respect and regard for the men and women of our armed forces and the outstanding job they do."