The BBC was under pressure last night to make a public apology for one of its presenters insinuating that Prince Harry took cocaine.
The corporation's satirical news programme, Have I Got News For You suggested that the prince snorted cocaine, in an item related to the christening of Prince George.
Jo Brand, the comedian and the show's guest presenter, began by making jokes about the names of Prince George's godparents and then, reading from an autocue, said: "George's godparents include Hugh van Cutsem... I presume that's a nickname as in Hugh van cuts 'em and Harry then snorts 'em."
The programme is recorded on Thursdays, edited and then shown on Fridays. 'Risky' comments would have been vetted by a senior BBC executive.
Brand insisted last night that she did not write the joke but accepted "culpability" for reading it out.
The BBC also made a mistake in naming Hugh van Cutsem as a godparent. Prince George's godfather is actually William van Cutsem. Hugh van Cutsem could refer to either William's brother or his father, who died last month.
Yesterday, critics rounded on the BBC for allegedly defaming the prince. Penny Junor, royal author and journalist, said the joke was a "cheap" shot.
A BBC spokesman said last night: "Have I Got News For You is a satirical news quiz and the audience is used to the often irreverent humour. This was clearly a tongue-in-cheek comment."