Singer death column sparks Twitter rage

October 19, 2009 By JILL LAWLESS , Associated Press Writer
Members of Irish band Boyzone, Ronan Keating, foreground left, Mikey Graham foreground right, Keith Duffy, background left, partially seen, and Shane Lynch background right, carry the coffin of fellow band member Stephen Gately from St. Laurence O'Toole Church, after the funeral service, in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday Oct. 17, 2009. Gately was found dead on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, in a house near Port d'Andratx on the western tip of Mallorca. The singer had gone to Mallorca with his partner Andrew Cowles. The two were wed in a civil union in 2006. Autopsy results released on Tuesday showed Gately died of natural causes. (AP Photo/Niall Carson/PA)

(AP) -- Britain's press watchdog said Monday it had received a record 21,000 complaints about a newspaper column on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately after critics used Twitter to brand the article homophobic and insensitive.

Gately died Oct. 10, aged 33, while vacationing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. An autopsy found he had died of natural causes from pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.

Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote in a column Friday that Gately's death was "not, by any yardstick, a natural one" and said he died in "sleazy" circumstances, She noted that Gately, who came out publicly as gay in 1999, had been to a bar and invited a young Bulgarian man back to his apartment the night before he died.

Moir concluded that "under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see."

Anger at the column swept social networking site Twitter soon after Moir's piece appeared on the paper's Web site. Actor Stephen Fry urged his 860,000 Twitter followers to contact the Press Complaints Commission. Other prominent Tweeters followed suit, and provided links to the commission's Web site.

Advertisers including retail chain Marks and Spencer asked to have their ads removed from the Mail Web page carrying Moir's column.

In a blog post Monday, Fry called Moir's column an "epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism."

Moir defended her article, claiming suggestions of homophobia were "mischievous" and suggesting the backlash was a "heavily orchestrated Internet campaign."

The commission said Monday it had received "by far the highest number of complaints ever" about a single article. It said it would write to the newspaper seeking a response before deciding whether to take further action.

Irish boy band Boyzone sold millions of albums in the 1990s and had six British No. 1 singles, including "All That I Need" and a cover of the Bee Gees' "Words."

Under the British media's self-regulatory system, newspapers are bound to adhere to the commission's code of practice, which includes commitments to accuracy, respect for privacy and avoiding "pejorative reference" to an individual's race, color, religion or disability.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: NKorean state media news available on Twitter

Related Stories

Spears, DeGeneres Twitpic accounts hacked

June 29, 2009

(AP) -- Hackers have broadcast bogus information about celebrities including Britney Spears and Ellen DeGeneres after breaking into their Twitpic accounts.

NY official: Tagged site stole identities

July 9, 2009

(AP) -- New York's attorney general charged Thursday that Tagged.com stole the identities of more than 60 million Internet users worldwide - by sending e-mails that raided their private accounts.

Twitter all-star? Best Buy puts number at 250

July 21, 2009

(AP) -- After buzz built online about a new marketing job, Best Buy Co. Inc. is reworking the help-wanted listing that sought Twitter experience and put a number on it - 250 followers.

Recommended for you

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smallest 3-D camera offers brain surgery innovation

August 28, 2015

To operate on the brain, doctors need to see fine details on a small scale. A tiny camera that could produce 3-D images from inside the brain would help surgeons see more intricacies of the tissue they are handling and lead ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.