Now hailed as the celebrity world’s latest social media feud, it has seen Cyrus, the former Disney starlet turned ‘twerker’, pitted against Sinéad O’Connor, the 46-year-old music veteran and long-time political activist, herself no stranger to controversy.
The spat began when O’Connor sent an open letter to Cyrus, 20, statingthat she was “extremely concerned” about the US singer’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ music video — in which Cyrus writhes around naked on said wrecking ball and suggestively licks a sledgehammer — and warned her not to be exploited by the music business.
Cyrus had earlier cited O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ as an inspiration for part of the video, in which there is a close-up of Cyrus’ tear-stained face.
This prompted O’Connor to pen an open letter “in the spirit of motherliness” to the young star in which she questioned how she could believe “that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos”.
“The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us,” wrote O’Connor. “They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think it’s what YOU wanted... and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.
“The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted... it’s so not cool Miley... it’s dangerous.
“It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.”
Cyrus responded with an initial ‘top of the morning to ya’ tweet but the cattiness began when Cyrus likened O’Connor to troubled actress Amanda Bynes, a fellow former child star, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment.
She took a further swipe at O’Connor, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, by posting a picture of her tearing up a photo of the then pope in 1992, as well as a screenshot of a string of emotional tweets sent in 2012 by O’Connor imploring her followers to recommend a psychiatrist.
Before Amanda Bynes.... There was.... pic.twitter.com/6JZPVnunPc— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013
Sinead. I don't have time to write you an open letter cause Im hosting & performing on SNL this week.— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013
So if youd like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter. :)— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013
Irish musician Bressie was one of thousands of tweeters worldwide who said they were disgusted by Cyrus’ tactics. “Miley Cyrus reply to Sinéad O’Connor once again manages to reinforce the stigma on mental health. Miley indeed is a horrible human being,” he wrote.
Miley Cyrus reply to Sinead O'Connor once again manages to reinforce the stigma on mental health. Miley indeed is a horrible human being— Niall Breslin (@nbrez) October 3, 2013
Dear fans of Miley.You can indeed support her music but please don't condone this behaviour regardless of your fondness for her as an artist— Niall Breslin (@nbrez) October 3, 2013
Cyrus then tweeted: “Sinead. I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause I’m hosting & performing on SNL [topical US sketch show Saturday Night Live] this week. So if you’d like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter.”
O’Connor then declared on Facebook that she is considering suing the former Hannah Montana star if she does not apologise publicly or remove the tweets.
“I have no interest whatsoever in meeting you,” O’Connor wrote. “You had plenty of time yesterday to abuse Amanda Bynes ... an entirely innocent party ... and myself.. who also did nothing to deserve your abuse along with every other sufferer of mental health problems and every person who suffered abuse at the hands of priests.
“If you do not apologise I will have no choice but to bring legal proceedings against you, since it is extremely hard to be given work when people think one is suffering from mental illness. I have no interest in or desire to cause you trouble...”
“I can’t imagine your parents being at all proud of what you did yesterday.”
Experts such as clinical director of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Paul Gilligan have warned that such comments about mental health can have extensive consequences.
“Stigma prevents people seeking help and adds to their suffering and distress. As we have seen from recent statistics on suicide and self-harm, unresolved mental health difficulties can have detrimental effects. Last year almost 9,500 people were treated in hospital after deliberately seeking to harm themselves.”
David McCarthy of Mad Pride Ireland said defining people by their mental illness is short-sighted, and warned that Cyrus’s outburst could undo much of campaigners hard work to remove stigma.