Prince George 'gay icon' article branded 'sick'
An article in PinkNews, speculating that Prince George has become a gay icon, has sparked a formal complaint from a Northern Ireland politician.
The online article was published after the four-year-old prince was photographed with his hands on his face in a helicopter in Germany last month.
Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party, described the article as "outrageous and sick".
He has written to PinkNews demanding it withdraw the article and apologise.
However, the chief executive of PinkNews, Benjamin Cohen, told BBC News NI he had "no intention" of removing the article at the behest of a politician who opposed the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
He defended the feature, saying it was a "tongue-in-cheek" piece, based on the comments of "hundreds" of social media users.
Mr Cohen added that as a gay man, he was personally offended by some of the "repugnant" remarks contained in Mr Allister's letter of complaint.
The PinkNews website describes itself as the "premier LGBT news outlet in the UK and beyond".
The original article, by Josh Jackman, was published on 25 July with the headline: People think Prince George looks fabulous in this new photo.
It was a commentary on social media users' reaction to one of a series of press photos of the young prince exploring a helicopter during a family tour of an aviation factory.
Mr Jackman wrote: "Prince George has become a gay icon overnight.
"The monarch-to-be has always been cute and well-dressed, but one day before his fourth birthday, a photo of him excitedly holding his face changed everything.
"At least, that's what the people - sorry, his subjects - are saying."
In his complaint, Mr Allister told PinkNews: "Sexualising a young child in this fashion is entirely inappropriate.
"In reality, the photo which prompted the piece shows a four-year-old boy who is smartly dressed and excited about being on a helicopter with his male father and female mother.
"To take an image of a little boy and to fantasise of him being an icon for a life defined by sex is outrageous and sick."
Mr Allister also told the editor that Facebook users' reaction to the piece "should tell you that the piece was misjudged to say the least".
The TUV leader quoted one of the critical Facebook comments which said: "You are using 1970s stereotyping to come up with this nonsense... It is ignorant in the extreme to speculate about the sexuality of any child in such a public fashion."
In the piece, Mr Jackman acknowledged: "There are of course those who say that any discussion of the prince's sexuality is premature."
But he insisted that the discussion "isn't about his sexuality".
"As Madonna, Lady Gaga, the Babadook and yes, even Ariana Grande have shown, you don't have to be gay or even have a defined sexuality to be an LGBT icon."
The article added that children "are born with a sexuality, and should be encouraged to find it without it being assumed that they're straight".
Mr Allister said he was disgusted by the article.
The TUV leader added that he would have referred his complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), but PinkNews had not signed up to its code of practice.
'Never heard of Jim Allister'
But the publication's chief executive pointed out that PinkNews could not be a member of IPSO as it was a "digital media company", and not a newspaper or a magazine.
Mr Cohen said he was "surprised" that a UK politician was not aware of its membership rules or the regulations governing the media.
He also said that until today, he had "never heard of Jim Allister" and had not yet received his letter, but had read its contents in the press.
Mr Cohen argued that the 25 July feature was a "legitimate" piece of social commentary and rejected Mr Allister's claim that it had "sexualised" a young child.
He said the feature was no longer on the PinkNews homepage as it was three weeks old, but that it would remain available on the internet.
The chief executive added that he was "surprised that Jim Allister is such an avid reader of PinkNews" that he could find the piece online.
Mr Allister founded the TUV in 2007 after quitting the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
He holds a seat at Stormont for the North Antrim constituency and is also a barrister.