Ricky Gervais has defended his use of the word “mong” on Twitter, after disability groups complained that it was a reference to Down syndrome.
The star of The Office said: "I have never used the word Mongol. I have used 'mong', but never to mean Down syndrome and never would."
He added: "The meaning of words change over time – ‘gay’, for example. The modern use of the word 'mong' means dopey or ignorant — it's in slang and urban dictionaries."
The comic’s tweets, which have included phrases such as "good monging" and "two mongs don't make a right", have been slammed by learning disability Mencap.
Mencap spokesman Mark Gale told The Sun: "It's very disappointing. Such language can perpetuate discriminatory attitudes."
Fellow comedian Richard Herring has also blasted the 'jokes'. He wrote on his blog: "I think many comics are guilty of using [the word "mong"] as convenient and humourless punch lines. I don't think any of them would do the same with the word 'n***er' or 'p**i' but they're happy to use 'mong' or 'retard' as a means of getting a laugh. And audiences will laugh at those words too and rarely even complain about them.
"If the words are upsetting some people and perpetuating a stereotype, isn't it more noble and thoughtful to just admit you might have made a mistake and stop?"
Last night Gervais thanked fans for their support over the media storm and said "others wilfully misunderstand to justify their point".
He rejoined Twitter at the end of September with a simple "Hello. Anybody there?", after previously quitting the social networking site in January 2010, calling it "undignified" for adults.