The Daily Mail newspaper said the former foreign secretary accused the French of being “turds” over Brexit, with the comment due to appear in the fly-on-the-wall documentary ‘Inside The Foreign Office’.
But the Foreign Office asked for it to be cut, with a Whitehall memo suggesting the comment would make Anglo-French relations “awkward”, the paper reported.
Senior diplomats had also privately expressed concerns that it could make it harder for the UK to get a good Brexit deal, according to the Mail.
The comment was said to have been made during filming for three-part documentary Inside The Foreign Office, which was broadcast on BBC Two in November last year.
Johnson had resigned as foreign secretary in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plan before the show went to air.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “The programme set out to reflect the realities of life inside the Foreign Office, the production team made judgments about what was in the programme and they are satisfied that the programme achieves its ambitions and has the content they wanted.”
The Foreign Office declined to comment.
However, Foreign Office Minster Sir Alan Duncan, a high profile critic of Mr Johnson, said there had been a significant level of concern within the Foreign Office about the documentary.
“I do remember that the filming of the documentary was a pretty high octane venture. There were some pretty bumpy moments when we thought ‘Ooh, we don’t want that to appear’,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“I imagine that there were discussions between the Foreign Office and the Beeb saying ‘Please don’t put that it in ... or that, or that, or that, or that’. This was perhaps one of them.”
Later appearing at a Tory leadership hustings in Exeter, Johnson said he could not remember calling the French turds.
Asked by LBC presenter Iain Dale if he made the crude remark, Johnson replied: “I have no recollection of this comment but I noticed that it... it’s not very well sourced this story, but anyway.”
Dale said: “It seems to have come from the Foreign Office, what do you read into that?”
Johnson replied: “I think, look, the serious question perhaps underlying all this, and perhaps what everyone will want to know is, can I get a fantastic deal for our country from our French friends, can we go forwards in a friendly, collegiate way, and yes, of course we can.”