Fox News has been criticised for using an image of Mrs Doubtfire, Robin Williams’ fictional character from the 1993 film of the same name, in a story about transgender inequality on its website.

The controversial US news network added the image to an Associated Press article concerning the decision of regulators in Oregon and California to instruct several health insurance companies to stop denying coverage for transgender patients because of their gender identity.

Above the story, was a picture of Robin Williams, dressed as his alter ego Mrs Doubtfire, in a comedy pose.

The film tells the fictional story of an American father who decides to transform himself into an elderly housekeeper in order to maintain contact with his children amid a pending divorce from his wife.

Commenters on the social aggregating site Reddit accused Fox News of pandering to transphobia.

Journalist and trans rights campaigner Janet Mock told the Take Part website: “I’m in shock that the editors of Fox chose to use a photo of Robin Williams in drag as the illustration of this matter of life and death for trans people. Blurring the line between fictional comical entertainment and the real-life struggles of trans people nationally is dehumanising and belittling.”

Mock continued: “Beyond being biased, the image is problematic for a number of reasons. Trans people are not wearing a costume. Our lives and struggles are not jokes, and using such an image spreads damaging stereotypes that who we are is put on, entertainment and fictional. It’s those same misconceptions and stereotypes that allow trans people to be discriminated against when it comes to access to housing, employment and healthcare.”

Fox News has now replaced the image of Mrs Doubtfire with a generic medical image of a stethoscope.