18/06/2015 12:27 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 16:59 BST

CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo Claims Charleston Shooting Suspect Could Be 'Non-White In Disguise'

FILE - This April 16, 2012 file photo shows ABC News' Chris Cuomo at the premiere of the film

A CNN news anchor has suggested in a bizarre tweet that the Charleston shooting suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, could be a 'non-white' person "in disguise".

In a since deleted post on Twitter, the American daytime news host Chris Cuomo said it was possible that Roof, confirmed by police to be a 21-year-old caucasian male, could, in fact, not be white.

Cuomo's message to his 1.1 million followers read: "Could #CharlestonShooting murderer be in disguise? Could he not be white? Possibly. But we report what authorities say unless know otherwise."

Roof, above, Cuomo's tweet, below

A barrage of criticism was soon leveled at Cuomo by many angry at his intervention.

The news anchor defended his actions, saying he removed the post as it was "distracting", and his point was to show why the Charleston shooting was "a hate crime".

In a post from his Facebook page, Cuomo said on Friday that he had only been "asking what was being asked simply to knock down the possibility".

"That," he said, "should be clear".

An investigation to find Roof, a suspect in the shooting that killed nine, is underway in the US.