Above: A screenshot from Thursday night's KSTP report.

A KSTP report about a photo of Betsy Hodges has generated a social media firestorm under the label "#pointergate" for making the assertion that her hand gesture in a photo was actually a gang sign.

The mayor's office said they are deferring comment on the story -- for now -- but may address it at a 1 p.m. news conference on body cameras. The story has generated national attention from outlets including the Huffington Post and Vanity Fair.

The photo, taken before the election, shows Hodges and a Neighborhoods Organizing for Change organizer pointing to each other while canvassing. Reporter Jay Kolls' story noted that the man has a criminal history, quoting both a retired officer and the head of the police union as saying her hand gesture was innapropriate.

"Is she going to support gangs in the city or cops?" said John Delmonico, president of the city's police union, in an on-camera interview. Delmonico recently penned an op-ed critical of Hodges comments about officers.

"I believe it is an ancient symbol used by our ancestors meaning "hey, look where my finger is pointing!" retorted Becky Zosia Dernbach, who took the photo, on Twitter.

The man in the photo is Navell Gordon, who was featured in a video taken the day of the canvassing. "I made some mistakes in life," he says in the video. "I can't vote. I'm not ashamed to say that. But I'm working on fixing that right now so I can be able to vote for my next president."

Activists stood up for Gordon in September after cops allegedly tackled and handcuffed him while he was collecting signatures outside Cub Foods.

Hodges' office said Friday that the mayor and Gordon were simply pointing at one another in the photo. They also released their statement to KSTP, which said the canvassing included people from all walks of life.

"It was a diverse group, including people who have made mistakes in their past," the statement said. "The more supportive that we all can be of people who are making better choices now, the better off we all will be in the future.”

Hundreds took to Twitter to lambast the story, which many said had racist overtones, under the hashtag #pointergate. Many also posted photos of celebrities with similar hand gestures, alleging sarcastically that they too were in a gang.

Kolls defended the story in subsequent responses over the course of Thursday evening. The station also stood behind the story in a statement released Friday morning.

"Law enforcement sources alerted KSTP-TV to a photo they believed could jeopardize public
safety and put their officers at risk, especially given the recent increase in gang violence," the statement said.

"Multiple sources from several law enforcement agencies told 5 Eyewitness News the
photo had the potential for undermining the work they are doing on the streets. 5 Eyewitness
News blurred the individuals face and did not name the group he was working for because police called into question only the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges."

As of 11:53 a.m., #pointergate was one of nine topics trending nationally on Twitter (see photo below).

We've collected some of the most interesting social reaction here.