Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has admitted that the timing Jan Moir’s Daily Mail column about the death of singer Stephen Gately was regrettable.
But he said he would ‘die in a ditch’to defend her right to express her opinion.
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The Moir piece attracted a record 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Comission and was later cleared of breaching the Editors’ Code.
The piece appeared in the Mail on 16 October 2009 and was headed: “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”. It suggested there was something “sleazy” about the tragedy and also said the truth had yet to emerge about the exact circumstances of Gately’s “strange and lonely death”.
Under questioning about the piece, Dacre said: ‘My view is that perhaps the timing was a little regrettable, I think the column could have benefitted from a little judicious sub-editing. But I would die in a ditch to defend a columnist’s right to have her views.” He added: “There isn’t a homophobic bone in Jan Moir’s body.”
On the huge number of complaints about the piece, Dacre said: ‘These were online complaints and an example of how twittering can create a firestormâ€¦Most people complaining admitted that they hadn’t read the piece.”
Dacre did admit that there were certain words he would have removed from the piece. He said that usually he doesn’t leave the office before 10pm, but he said that on the night in question when the Moir piece went to press he was on a rare night off taking his wife on a birthday trip to the opera.