Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir has apologised to the parents of gay Boyzone star Stephen Gately for the “insensitive timing” of her column last week.

Last Friday, the day before his funeral, the journalist called Gately’s death “unnatural” and appeared to criticise civil partnerships and the “gay lifestyle”.

More than 22,000 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission.

In a column today, she wrote: “I am not – unlike those close to Stephen Gately – mourning for the loss of a much-loved partner, son, family member and close friend. To them, I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral.”

As with her column last week, all advertisements have been removed from the web page. Last week, Marks and Spencer and Nestle asked for the adverts to be removed from her page.

She refused to apologise for the views so many found offensive, instead attempting to explain her comments.

Moir wrote it was “bizarre” that the public were told Gately died of natural causes before toxicology reports came back. Gately died from a pulmonary oedema, or fluid from the lungs. He was subsequently found to have smoked some cannabis before he died.

She wrote: “I have never thought, or suggested, that what happened that night represented a so-called gay lifestyle; this is not how most gay people live. Rather, I thought it a louche lifestyle; one that raised questions about health and personal safety.”

On the use of the word “sleazy”, she maintained it was sleazy to “die on a sofa while your partner is sleeping with someone else in the next room”. A third man, Georgi Duchev, did return to the flat with Gately and his civil partner Andrew Cowles but it is not clear why he returned.

Moir also restated her support for “same-sex marriages”.

She then turned her attention to the “bile, the fury [and] the inflammatory hate mail” she said she had received and added: “To say it was a hysterical overreaction would be putting it mildly.”

Moir wrote: “I can’t help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part?

“Can it really be that we are becoming a society where no one can dare to question the circumstances or behaviour of a person who happens to be gay without being labelled a homophobe? If so, that is deeply troubling.”

The PPC is currently deciding whether to investigate the tens of thousands of complaints received. Boyzone’s record label, Polydor, has also made a complaint.