Actress Shirley MacLaine has drawn criticism following a series of ill-considered comments on the holocaust and Stephen Hawking.
MacLaine made the comments in her recently-published memoir, in which she questioned if the 6m victims of the holocaust 'brought it on themselves'. She offered the theory that they were atoning in this life for crimes committed in past ones.
She continued her offensive tirade by suggesting that cosmologist Stephen Hawking 'subconsciously' 'gave himself' motor neurone disease in order to ‘free his mind’ from the needs of his body.
In her book, she wrote:
‘What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.’
The comments were last night slammed as "offensive" and "wrong" by several activist groups.
On the subject of Professor Hawking, she asked if the scientist had "created" the disease in order to "learn to be dependent on caregivers so that he could free his entire mind?"
"If Jesus chose to die in a state of martyrdom, then Stephen Hawking could just as readily have chosen to live in a dual state of being: visibly physical weakness and unseen knowledge and power. What if all reality is an illusion?"
A spokesperson for Disability Rights UK said in a statement "It’s completely wrong to say people choose their disabilities, especially Professor Stephen Hawking, who has a genetic condition".
The book is titled 'What If... A Lifetime Of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses And A Few Things I Know For Sure".
Representatives for the former Downton Abbey star declined to comment.