21,000 complaints over Jan Moir’s piece on gay singer Stephen Gately

Jessica Geen October 19, 2009
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The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has received 21,000 complaints over a Daily Mail article on Stephen Gately, the gay Boyzone star who died earlier this month.

The article was published on Friday and the number of complaints received over the weekend is more than the regulator has received in the last five years.

One member of the public has complained to the Metropolitan police over the story.

Columnist Jan Moir wrote: “Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

“And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.”

She also drew comparisons between Gately and Kevin McGee, the former civil partner of Matt Lucas, despite Gately dying of natural causes and McGee committing suicide after months of depression and addiction.

Her comments sparked a wave of anger across the internet, with many people using Twitter and Facebook to spread word of the offending column.

In addition, big brands such as Marks & Spencer and Nestle asked for their advertisements to be removed from the web page, although the newspaper had already decided to take them down.

Denying she was homophobic, Moir later released a statement saying: “In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

Gately was found dead in a Majorca apartment last weekend. Post mortem examination results show he died from pulmonary oedema, or a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

The PPC, whose chairman Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail, usually only deals with complaints of accuracy and intrusion from those directly affected by articles.

However, it is currently deciding whether to investigate the unprecedented number of complaints.

The article may have breached its Code of Conduct, which mentions intrusion into grief, accuracy, discrimination and homophobia.

Today, the newspaper mentioned the “extraordinary online response” in a brief story in page four, in which it cited some of Moir’s statement.

It also carried a column by Stonewall award nominee Janet Street Porter, who criticised Moir’s comments.

Street Porter also pointed out that the death of Ian Baynham, who was killed in a homophobic attack in Trafalgar Square, had merited far less media coverage than Moir’s article.

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