Media mogul Rupert Murdoch came to the defence of Britain's Prince Harry, urging critics to "give him a break" over photographs of him frolicking naked in a Las Vegas hotel suite.
Australian-born Murdoch posted a message of support on his Twitter page after The Sun, his top-selling British tabloid, printed the images of 27-year-old Harry in defiance of orders from the royal family.
"Prince Harry. Give him a break," wrote Murdoch, 81. "He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas."
The images of the third in line to the throne, cavorting nude with a mystery woman during a game of "strip billiards", first surfaced Wednesday on the US gossip website TMZ before going viral on the internet.
The Sun initially respected the royal family's request that British newspapers did not print the grainy camera-phone images, but broke ranks on Friday local time, claiming it did so in defence of press freedom.
The newspaper said it was "ludicrous" that the British press were not allowed to print images that had already been seen by hundreds of millions of people on the internet.
Britain's media watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, has received more than 850 complaints about The Sun's publication of the photos.
A YouGov poll published in The Sunday Times newspaper found that some 68 per cent of Britons think Harry's behaviour was acceptable for a young single man on a private holiday.
Some 75 per cent still had a positive view of Harry, an army officer who has served in Afghanistan and is now a trained Apache helicopter pilot.
But 61 per cent thought The Sun was wrong to print the images, with only 25 per cent supporting the tabloid's decision.