UK

The Sun's Head Of PR Dylan Sharpe 'Trolls' Kay Burley With Topless Picture, Sends Twitter Into Meltdown

22/01/2015 10:55 GMT | Updated 23/01/2015 13:59 GMT

UPDATE: The Sun's Dylan Sharpe Apologises For Page 3 'Harassment'.. And It's As Banterous As You'd Imagine

The Sun has confused almost everyone today, including its sister publication The Times, by printing a topless woman on page 3 again. But for some people, looking away was not an option.

The Sun's head of PR Dylan Sharpe tweeted the paper's semi-nude picture directly at MP Harriet Harman, who has long opposed the images, and journalists including Kay Burley, sending Twitter into meltdown over his "unprofessional" and "creepy" behaviour.

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Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth on page 3 of The Sun today amid a week of reports the feature had been dropped

Sharpe - who had refused for three days to confirm or deny the reports that The Sun was drawing page 3 to a close - sent the mocking tweet to Harman, senior Sky presenter Kay Burley, Guardian writers Roy Greenslade and Steve Hewlett, and BBC correspondent Lucy Manning, all of whom had reported on the rumours that the paper would no longer run topless pictures.

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The PR man was swiftly torn apart for being "unprofessional", "childish" and "classless", with Burley leading the charge. "I'm sure your mother is incredibly proud of you", she replied.

Posting nude images is not against Twitter's guidelines - although the site claims it removes "obscene or pornographic images" from user profile photos, header photos and background images.

Others lashed out at Sharpe's conduct in disbelief:

Sharpe told The Huffington Post UK Thursday morning: "A lot of people have tweeted page 3 of the Sun today, and I was merely tweeted it out as well. Do you think it hadn't appeared in their timeline already? I imagine a lot of people on Twitter have seen it today."

He told PA: "That page has been tweeted tens of thousands of times and I do not see it is any different with me tweeting it. Given the number of people who have tweeted that page... I could not have expected that response this time.

"Look at my mentions and the number of people calling me (all) manner of nasty horrible things."

A senior media source also defended Sharpe, telling The Huffington Post UK he was "a young guy" who would be acting under the orders of superiors in a carefully-planned strategy. He reports to The Sun's managing editor Stig Abell.

It seems tweeting nude pictures can gain you followers on Twitter - Sharpe's post hasn't done his profile any harm as he gained hundreds of followers this week.

Sharpe mysteriously failed to target the naked picture at journalists from The Sun's sister paper The Times, which reported on Tuesday that its Rupert Murdoch-owned stablemate had run its last "image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page”, apparently briefed by sources close to The Sun.

The red-top heralded page 3's return today under the front page headline “We’ve had a mammary lapse.”

The picture itself featured a 'correction' saying: "Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth. We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."

The No To Page 3 campaign group, which had all but declared victory in their battle to have the feature axed, said the "fight might be back on".

Writing on their Facebook page they said: "Thanks to The Sun for all the publicity they've given the campaign."

By 11am the fight back against Page 3 had seen an online petition boasting 218,237 signatures.