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Joan Rivers dies in New York aged 81

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US comedian Joan Rivers died today at age 81 after being rushed into hospital last week.

The announcement was made by Rivers’ daughter Melissa today that the star known for her E! channel Fashion Police TV show, died peacefully this afternoon.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Melissa Rivers said in a written statement today.

“She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.”

The comedian had been rushed into hospital last week during an operation on her vocal chords when she suffered a cardiac arrest. She was later sedated, then placed on life support.

Considered by some a gay icon, Rivers appeared at a book signing in New York in July and officiated at the wedding of two gay fans.

At the height of the AIDS epidemic, Rivers would visit gay men living with HIV and give them presents at Christmas.

She also caused controversy last month when she scoffed at calls to apologise after she claimed that President Barack Obama is gay and his wife Michelle is “a transgender”.

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