The Daily Mail
LONDON — UK press regulator IPSO has received thousands of complaints about the Daily Mail's front page on Tuesday, which MPs described as "sexist" and "appalling."
An IPSO spokesman told Business Insider on Wednesday afternoon that 1,600 people voiced their concern about the headline.
By comparison, only 400 people complained about a 2015 column in The Sun newspaper in which Katie Hopkins described African migrants as "cockroaches."
The Mail ran the headline "Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!" alongside a photo of Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The picture was taken on Monday when the pair met in a Glasgow hotel, ahead of the scheduled triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday.
It plugged a piece inside the paper by columnist Sarah Vine titled: "Finest weapons at their command? Those pins!" A second column by Vine described Sturgeon's legs as "altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed … a direct attempt at seduction."
Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack was one of those to report the tabloid publication to IPSO.
She accused the paper of breaking clause 12 of the IPSO editor's code, which states that media outlets must "avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."
"To bring the politicians’ appearance into this story is not only entirely irrelevant but incredibly disrespectful," Womack's submission states.
"This headline and the further derogatory comments inside the paper would not have even been considered, let alone published, if the two politicians in question had been men.
“Women in the public sphere deserve to be treated with respect and the headline contributes to a wider culture of sexism. It reinforces a fallacy that politics isn't a place for women, potentially putting off the next generation of leaders and decision makers."
May played down the front page on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking to the Express & Star during a visit to the West Midlands, the prime minister joked: "You will notice that I am wearing trousers today!"
She added: "As a woman in politics throughout my whole career I have found that very often, what I wear — particularly my shoes — has been an issue that has been looked at rather closely by people.
"Obviously what we do as politicians is what makes a difference to people's lives. I think that most people concentrate on what we do as politicians.
"But if people want to have a bit of fun about how we dress, then so be it."
"For goodness' sake, get a life!"
A spokesperson for the Daily Mail responded on Tuesday afternoon that critics of the headline should "get a life."
"For goodness [sic] sake, get a life! Sarah Vine's piece, which was flagged as light-hearted, was a side-bar alongside a serious political story. It appeared in an 84-page paper packed with important news and analysis, a front page exclusive on cost-cutting in the NHS, and a health supplement devoted to women's health issues," the spokesperson said.
"For the record, the Mail was the paper which, more than any other, backed Theresa May for the top job. Again for the record, we often comment on the appearance of male politicians including Cameron's waistline, Osborne's hair, Corbyn's clothes — and even Boris's legs. Is there a rule that says political coverage must be dull or has a po-faced BBC and left-wing commentariat, so obsessed by the Daily Mail, lost all sense of humour ... and proportion?"
MPs react with outrage
MPs reacted angrily to the front page.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday evening: "It's 2017. This sexism must be consigned to history. Shame on the Daily Mail."
Labour MP Harriet Harman described the front page as "moronic," and fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper wrote on Twitter:
It's 2017. Two women's decisions will determine if United Kingdom continues to exist. And front page news is their lower limbs. Obviously pic.twitter.com/AMp0YvtISa
Tory MP Nicky Morgan, who was education minister until 2016, accused the paper of "appalling" sexism:
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband wrote:
Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart noted that the paper had opted for a different editorial line north of the border, running the picture instead with the headline: "Oh so frosty! Secrets of Nicola and PM's talk-in."
Scottish Daily Mail has different headline. Would be good if they thought they couldn't get away with that 70's nonsense in Scotland. https://t.co/f7naYFk7mq
Later editions of the paper appeared to make light of the "Legs-It" headline, with a sub-heading describing it as "Sarah Vine's light-hearted verdict on the big showdown."
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