Leave Hague alone, media warned
A long-standing friend and political colleague of William Hague called on the press to "back off", branding coverage of the Foreign Secretary's personal life "contemptible".
International Development Minister Alan Duncan said internet bloggers and the press had been "out of control" in publishing "unjustified" rumours and innuendo.
Mr Hague sparked a rash of headlines earlier this week when he released a remarkably open statement denying having had an "improper" relationship with a male aide, insisting his marriage was strong, and revealing that his wife, Ffion, had suffered a series of miscarriages.
He confirmed that he had occasionally shared a twin room in hotels with Christopher Myers, who quit as his special adviser on Wednesday, but said that rumours of a relationship between them were untrue.
Mr Hague said that he and Ffion had "had enough" and had decided to "put the record straight" about the rumours which had been circulating.
But he faced accusations of poor judgment after his frank statement resulted in rumours which had been largely confined to the internet leaping into the mainstream media headlines.
Mr Duncan - the first Conservative MP to come out as gay - defended his long-time friend, telling BBC Radio 4's Any Questions: "We are dealing with a very special politician and I think the way he has been pilloried this week has been contemptible. I think, based on rumour, innuendo, with no foundation in fact, bloggers and the press have got completely out of control.
"I know William, I know Ffion and I don't like the way that they have been treated. I think the way he has behaved, the way Ffion has behaved has been admirable - composed, calm, dignified - and I think it is wrong for British politics that a couple like this should have been subjected to what they have been subjected this week."
Mr Duncan was critical of the BBC's handling of the story, describing the Radio 4 Today programme as "ill-advised and tasteless" for inviting Speaker's wife Sally Bercow to discuss it, and accusing Any Questions presenter Martha Kearney of peddling "tittle-tattle" when she quoted newspaper reports which traced rumours about Mr Hague's sexuality back to the time the two of them shared a flat.
Mrs Bercow told Today this morning that Mr Hague had been given "duff PR advice", saying: "You don't need to disclose this level of detail to prove you're not gay... It's elevated something that was circulating on the internet to the national press and the national media."