Lord Alan Sugar today sparked a huge race row after he posted a racist tweet comparing the Senegal World Cup squad to black beach sellers.
As reported on Daily Mail, hundreds of people immediately slammed the 71-year-old Apprentice host, but he initially failed to back down, calling the reaction ‘OTT’ to what was a ‘bloody joke’.
The tweet was eventually removed 23 minutes later – but Lord Sugar insisted this was only because it was ‘interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people’.
However, 82 minutes after posting the initial message, he admitted the tweet was ‘misjudged’ and his ‘attempt at humour has backfired’, saying he was ‘very sorry’.
Lord Sugar’s position as host of the popular BBC TV programme – which has run for 13 seasons so far, with another on screen this autumn – could now come into doubt.
Lord Sugar wrote above the image: ‘I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps.’
But the post was then deleted – and Lord Sugar said: ‘Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella .
‘Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people. Frankly I can’t see that I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.’
However, 82 minutes after posting the first message, he tweeted: ‘I misjudged me earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.’
He had also tweeted, to a follower who asked when he would apologise: ‘I can’t see what I have to apologise for… you are OTT… it’s a bloody joke.’
In another post in response to someone who had said it was ‘not an OK tweet’, Lord Sugar wrote: ‘why not, it is meant to be funny… for God’s sake.’
Sugar later told Mirror Online: ‘It was meant as a joke. Someone sent me the picture and I tweeted. People know I have fought against racism for years .
‘I sincerely didn’t think this could be interpreted in any other way other than funny. However, due to the comments on Twitter I pulled it down.’
The BBC, who broadcast The Apprentice, were preparing a statement today. It is not yet known whether Scotland Yard are investigating the tweet.
Some Twitter followers compared Lord Sugar to Roseanne Barr, the US sitcom star who was dropped by her network after an outcry following a racist tweet.
Others were urging the public to complain to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards over the tweet. Lord Sugar joined the House of Lords in 2009.
Among the 23 players in the World Cup squad for Senegal, who beat Poland 2-1 yesterday, seven are based in England – including five in the Premier League.
They are Idrissa Gueye of Everton, Cheikhou Kouyaté of West Ham United, Alfred N’Diaye of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sadio Mané of Liverpool.
The other two Senegal players based in England are Badou Ndiaye and Mame Biram Diouf, who both play for Stoke City in the Football League Championship.
BBC World News presenter Babita Sharma said it was a ‘shocking, vile tweet that you take a screen grab of because you know it will soon be deleted’.
Kayode Modupe-Ojo, a British-Nigerian entrepreneur, tweeted: ‘If that Alan Sugar tweet was real then ladies and gentlemen… you just had a small insight into the type of ‘undercover racism’ black people face daily. As a black African man I am genuinely upset, offended and disappointing in you, Lord Sugar.’
Bookmaker Paddy Power slashed the odds on Lord Sugar to not appear on the next series of The Apprentice from 20/1 to evens today.
Lord Sugar is also now rated at 5/1 to delete his Twitter account before next year.