Fans logged 22,000 complaints over the course of just three days since The Daily Mail article was published Friday. The Guardian noted this was “more complaints in a single weekend than the regulator has received in total in the past five years.”
Gately died Oct. 10. The band explained in a brief statement that the 33-year-old “tragically died” while visiting the island of Mallorca, Spain with his partner, Andrew Cowles. Gately, who made headlines for coming out as gay in 1999, and Cowles wed in a civil union in 2006.
According to an autopsy, the singer died of natural causes from pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.
This explanation was not enough for Daily Mail writer Jan Moir. She penned an article entitled “Why There Was Nothing ‘Natural’ About Stephen Gately’s Death,” examining the alleged details that surrounding the singer’s final hours. The story’s headline was later changed to “A Strange, Lonely And Troubling Death.”
“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,” Moir wrote. “Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one.”
Moir explained that the circumstances surrounding Gately’s death “are more than a little sleazy” because Gately and his partner brought a Bulgarian man back to their apartment with them after a night of clubbing. She implies something scandalous happened, writing, “It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.” The writer also noted that Gately “at least smoked cannabis on the night he died.”
Moir concludes the article by reprimanding Gately and his partner for inviting another man to their apartment, what she sees as a “very different and more dangerous lifestyle.”
“Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships,” she writes.
Fans and critics were not pleased with the article, calling it homophobic and offensive.
Actor Stephen Fry encouraged his 860,000 Twitter followers to leave complaints with the Press Complaints Commission, calling the column “an epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism.” Other celebrity Twitter users and their followers also provided links to leave complaints.
The PCC said it would “consider” the 22,000 complaints, according to the Guardian, which noted that the commission plans to investigate if Moir’s article is in violation of intrusion into grief, accuracy, discrimination and/or homophobia.
“Any complaint from the affected parties will naturally be given precedence by the commission, in line with its normal procedures,” the commission said in a statement.
“If, for whatever reason, those individuals do not wish to make a complaint, the PCC will in any case write to the Daily Mail for its response to the more general complaints from the public before considering whether there are any issues under the code to pursue.
Moir wrote an article in response to the complaints, defending her original article and writing that suggesting that her article was homophobic and bigoted is “mischievous.”
“The point of my column-which, I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all,” Moir wrote.
“Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, 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 writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.”
Do you think Moir’s article was offensive? Or are Boyzone’s fans overacting?
Click here for Moir’s Daily Mail article.
Click here for Moir’s follow-up article.
Click here for the Guardian article.
Click here for the AP article.