BBC Northern Ireland last night apologised after leading Radio Ulster presenter Gerry Anderson told his listeners he wanted George Bush "to rot in hell". sub-heading is OK even if it looks like it isn't
The Radio Ulster host was presenting his morning show yesterday - July 4, US Independence Day - when he said it was also the American President's birthday.
After telling his listeners Mr Bush had just turned 60, he added: "May I say I hope you rot in hell".
Ironically, the popular presenter and Belfast Telegraph columnist got the birth date wrong - the current President celebrates his birthday tomorrow, July 6.
The US consulate described Mr Anderson's remarks as "regrettable" but spokesman Peter McKittrick diplomatically added: "Freedom of speech was one of the many values that all Americans were celebrating yesterday."
Mr Anderson was yesterday unavailable for comment but a BBC spokesman said: " We apologise for any offence caused."
One Radio Ulster listener, who contacted the Belfast Telegraph, said: " I couldn't believe what I was hearing, especially on Independence Day."
There were fears that Mr Anderson's comment may offend many of the 62,500 US tourists who visit Ulster each year.
A spokeswoman from the Belfast Visitor Convention Bureau said the comment could prove damaging to the province's tourist industry.
But added: "However, people are still entitled to have their own opinions on things and perhaps there may even be some American visitors who agree with Mr Anderson."