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(Adds Daily Mail statement paragraph 7)
By Emma Batha
LONDON, March 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British politicians lambasted a popular tabloid for "moronic" sexism on Tuesday after it splashed a photo of Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's legs across the front page with the headline "Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!"
The public also took to social media to denounce the Daily Mail for focussing on the two leaders' legs when they met to discuss Britain's departure from the European Union and a potential referendum on Scottish independence.
"The 1950s called and asked for their headline back.#everydaysexism," tweeted Labour parliamentarian Ed Miliband using a hashtag for highlighting women's experiences of sexism.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, tweeted: "It's 2017. This sexism must be consigned to history. Shame on the Daily Mail", while veteran Labour lawmaker Harriet Harman branded the coverage "moronic".
The paper featured more photos of the two leaders inside above another headline: "Finest weapons at their command? Those pins!"
A columnist described Sturgeon's legs as "altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed ... a direct attempt at seduction".
In a statement to the BBC, the Daily Mail said the piece was "a sidebar alongside a serious political story" and had been flagged as "light-hearted". It said the paper often commented on the appearance of male politicians too.
But the coverage of the meeting generated a torrent of criticism on Twitter with members of the public branding it as "utterly puerile" and "sexist, derogatory trash journalism".
"Has anyone told the #DailyMail that we put the clocks forward by an hour, not back 3 decades?" one woman tweeted, referring to the country's switch to British Summer Time at the weekend.
The Daily Mail, which has a circulation of 1.45 million and reaches millions more online, backed Brexit in last year's referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Sturgeon, who heads Edinburgh's devolved government, wants Scotland to hold a referendum on independence before Britain leaves the European Union. (Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)