Mail columnist throws a shadow over Gately funeral
21,000 complaints received by PCC after Stephen Fry leads internet assault on ‘repulsive nobody’ Jan Moir
The Mail newspapers have had a tricky weekend trying to control the damage caused by an extraordinary outburst by columnist Jan Moir (above, left), who wrote on Friday that "there was nothing natural about Stephen Gately's death" and that the circumstances were "more than a little sleazy".
Referring to the fact that Gately and his civil partner Andrew Cowles had taken a Bulgarian man home with them after meeting in a gay nightclub in Palma, and that cannabis might have been smoked earlier in the evening, she went on: "Under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see."
The column provoked an outpouring of disgust from friends and family gathering for Saturday's funeral in Dublin, and among the general public. A Twitter campaign organised by Stephen Fry led to so many complaints being sent to the Press Complaints Commission that its website crashed. And, under pressure from unhappy advertisers, the Mail was forced to remove several ads from its website.
The Mail on Sunday reporter with the tricky assignment of covering the Dublin funeral simply ignored the issue. Quoting mourners for his article headlined 'Farewell to our brother, farewell to our son', he managed to avoid those in the crowd still fuming at the Mail.
As for the Daily Mail this morning, in an effort to placate its advertisers and readers it employed the age-old tactic of "If one columnist screws up, just bring in another".
Janet Street Porter (above, right), the former TV executive who is well-known for her friendship with Sir Elton John and David Furnish - they introduced Gately to Cowles - and who knew Gately well enough to have holidayed with him, wrote: "I was astonished to read in Jan Moir's column last Friday that his [Gately's] death 'strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships'...
"What exactly was bothering Jan? The fact Stephen was gay, the fact he was in a civil partnership, or the fact that he or his partner might have enjoyed sex with someone they had just met?"
Street Porter went on to remind Moir that, whether she liked it or not, civil partnerships had been "enshrined in law by our democratically elected parliament".
As for the presence of a third man on the night Gately died, Street Porter asked: "If Stephen and his partner went to a nightclub and returned to their flat with another man, is it really any of our business?
"Fact - Stephen Gately died of natural causes, not from guilt. It's not as if extra-marital sex is unusual in our society."
Whether Street Porter's column is enough to get the Mail off the hook with any gay readers it might possibly still have is doubtful.
Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter: "I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane," he tweeted. "Disgusted with Daily Mail's Jan Moir? Complain where it matters. She breaches 1,3,5 & 12 of the code."
The ensuing complaints to the PCC - concerning the insensitivity to Gately's family and apparent homophobia - not only crashed the website but broke records in terms of numbers received. The PCC is now "considering" 21,000 complaints.
Among the big-name advertisers whose ads were quickly taken down from the Mail online were Marks & Spencer, Kodak, National Express and Nestle, a spokesman for whom said: "The views in the article are not shared by Nestle. We have always emphasised the importance of mutual respect and tolerance."
On the streets of Dublin, Sue Morris, who had flown in from Nottingham to observe the funeral, described Moir's column as "vile and disgusting". Leaning on the barrier facing St Laurence's, sobbing, Sue Morris told a reporter: "I haven't read anything as nasty about someone who has died. Stephen was a beautiful person who did so much for the world."
That was reported in the Observer, not the Mail on Sunday. ·
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