Former health minister Edwina Currie has been forced to defend herself against accusations she patronised Italian Paralympians by describing them as "gorgeous even in wheelchairs".
Her comment, posted on Twitter, drew condemnation from other users of the website who said it was "disgusting", but Ms Currie insisted she was paying the entire Italian team a compliment.
In response to criticism of her post, Ms Currie said: "Why shouldn't we pay people who look good the compliment of saying so? That's real equality, innit?"
She added that "they just all look good, natty suits, smooth geezers".
The row began as the athletes paraded into the stadium during the opening ceremony, when Ms Currie tweeted: "Italians are gorgeous even in wheelchairs. Love 'em."
One reply, from @mbisace described the comment as "singularly the most offensive thing I have seen on Twitter".
Another, from Justin Berkovi, said Ms Currie had made a "disgusting ignorant comment" while @jfraseruk, who is disabled, said "even in wheelchairs? wow - talk about insensitive".
A comment from @SiouxsieMcB, asking Ms Currie "do you realise how patronising you sound" was met with the response from the former minister: "Get off with the patronising. Look at them - they are gorgeous, and they're in wheelchairs. I bet they'd agree."
During the Olympics opening ceremony Tory MP Aidan Burley came under fire for calling Danny Boyle's spectacular show "leftie multi-cultural cr*p".
In a reference to the earlier row, Dave Jones, who tweets as @welsh_gas_doc joked: "Looks like @Edwina_Currie missed the memo from Conservative HQ about posting on Twitter tonight."