Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood has issued a formal apology for saying all celebrity contestants should sleep with their professional dance partners if they want to win the show like Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton.
According to The Sun newspaper, the sharp-tongued judge made the “cruel” comment on Friday night during pre-recorded filming for the launch episode of the BBC dance show - with last year’s winner Dooley, her partner and boyfriend Clifton and her family in the audience.
Horwood, 54, issued a statement on Saturday night saying: “I recognise that what I said was hurtful, cruel and incredibly disrespectful. It was a huge error of judgment that I very much regret.”
His original remark was made after last year’s champions Dooley and Clifton performed a dance on the show, due to be aired next weekend.
Host Tess Daly asked the panel – Horwood, Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas and new judge Motsi Mabuse - if they had any advice for this year’s contestants.
Horwood said they should take inspiration from 32-year-old documentary-maker Dooley. He said she had been “dragged up from the dance gutter” before winning the show.
He then added: “Of course, if you sleep with your dance partner that helps...”
Cameras stopped filming as crew members rushed over to Dooley but her mother Di reportedly fled the studio in tears.
One source said: “It was an awful moment. Craig was obviously trying to be funny, but realised as soon as he said it that he had gone too far.
“The audience was visibly shocked, as was Tess Daly and the other judges.
“Immediately after he made the comment, ‘cut’ was called, and chaos broke out.”
Executive producers immediately decided to scrap the footage and the sequence had to be reshot.
An embarrassed Horwood was taken to one side by Strictly bosses at the end of filming and asked to apologise to Dooley and Clifton, which he did.
Dooley split from her boyfriend of three years Sam Tucknott in March. She and Clifton, 36, began dating shortly afterwards, having grown close while working together on the show.
After being handed the glitterball trophy in the Strictly final Dooley told Clifton: “I should say something quite poignant, shouldn’t I? You know how highly I think of you. I think you are the biggest gem.”
Kevin replied: “You are so lovely and I think the absolute world of you.”
Dooley has since spoken out about their romance, calling Clifton, “amazing” and he has made her “so happy”.