Public complaints over Gately article

Fri, Oct 16, 2009, 01:00

A Daily Mail columnist has issued a statement rejecting claims that an article she wrote on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately is homophobic.

Jan Moir defended her opinion piece, published in the British edition of today's newspaper, claiming she was the victim of "a heavily orchestrated internet campaign" after several companies pulled advertising from the website page featuring the article.

"I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones," she said in the statement.

The British Press Complaints Commission received more than 1,000 complaints from members of the public throughout the course of the day, leading the Commission's website to crash for several hours.

"Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention," she said.

Defending the content of her article, she said: "it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately's death - out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger - did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition."

"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," she concluded.

The article in question initially had the headline "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death" but this was later changed on the paper's online edition to: "A strange, lonely and troubling death..."

In it she questioned the nature of his death: "Even before the post-mortem and toxicology reports were released by the Spanish authorities, the Gatelys' lawyer reiterated that they believed his sudden death was due to natural causes," she wrote.

"But, hang on a minute. Something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend, like a broken teacup in the rented cottage."

"Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered."

"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."

"After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards."

She added that "Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships."

"Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael."

"Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened."

Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook provided a forum throughout the day for people to comment on Ms Moir's opinion piece.

British actor Stephen Fry, who has almost 850,000 followers on Twitter said: "I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane."

He then re-tweeted (RT'd) a link from magician and illusionist Derren Brown calling on readers to complain: "Disgusted with Daily Mail's Jan Moir? Complain where it matters.".

"If Gateley's passing causes today's kind of gutter-journalism to be held to account, we can perhaps take that as a tribute," Derren Brown later added.