Bruce Forsyth was forced to backtrack on a formal BBC statement after he said the nation should get a ‘sense of humour’ about the Strictly Come Dancing race row.

The 81-year-old told radio station TalkSport that people should accept the apology offered by Anton du Beke for telling celebrity dance partner Laila Rouass she looked like a “paki”, and move on.

But hours later a statement from Bruce was issued by the BBC, saying: “What Anton said to Laila was wrong and he has apologised unreservedly for this – nor do I in any way excuse or condone the use of such language.”

It went on: “To be absolutely clear, the use of racially offensive language is never either funny or acceptable.

“However, there is a major difference between this and racist comments which are malicious in intent and, whilst I accept that we live in a world of extraordinary political correctness, we should keep things in perspective.”

The statement added: “These are my personal views and not necessarily those of the BBC”.

Speaking on the radio, the Strictly presenter had said that in days gone by the “slip up” would have been treated in a more light-hearted way.

“We used to have a sense of humour about this,” he said. “You go back 25, 30, 40 years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing.

“At one time the Americans used to call us ‘limeys’ which doesn’t sound very nice, but we used to laugh about it. Everybody has a nickname.”

Anton has since apologised “unreservedly” for his comment, which he made off-air and “in jest” after Laila had a spray tan, and she accepted his apology.