VIENNA — Austrian Formula One legend Niki Lauda apologised Wednesday for making anti-gay comments that raised a storm on social networking sites this week.
"I... would like to apologise to all the people who were hurt by my choice of words," Lauda said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of his airline FlyNiki.
"I would like to repeat here one more time: I have never had any prejudice against homosexuals," he added.
The 61-year-old Lauda, who was three times F1 world champion and now runs his own airline, came under fire this week after criticising Austrian public television ORF for pairing the openly gay actor and presenter Alfons Haider with a heterosexual man in the upcoming dance show "Dancing Stars".
"There are so many good things in our culture and one of those is that men dance with women. At this rate we will soon have to be saying sorry because we are heterosexual," Lauda said in an interview with the daily Oesterreich on Monday.
The comments spurred a wave of protests on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as from Austrian politicians.
Vienna's gay and lesbian initiative HOSI said it was shocked by Lauda's comments, noting: "As someone who stands in the limelight and as head of a company which employs lots of homosexual men and women, he should be very careful about what he says in public."
Lauda backed up his comments Wednesday by saying he was only protesting ORF's blatant attempt to increase its viewership.
"It disturbs me that ORF is acting like a private station in order to raise TV ratings," he said in his statement.
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