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Karl Stefanovic Gives Long On-Air Apology For 'Tranny' Jokes

"Because trans people are fun loving, I actually assumed they would laugh along with me".

29/07/2016 9:06 AM AEST | Updated July 29, 2016 10:14

Today show host Karl Stefanovic has apologised for making offensive comments about "transvestites" after his colleague was attacked and mugged in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Olympics.

On Thursday, Stefanovic was interviewing Channel Nine journalist Christine Ahern about an incident in which she and her crew claimed they were set upon by would-be muggers.

Ahern labelled the group as "transvestites", in a bid to describe the strength of the attackers.

But Stefanovic seized upon the descriptor, joking with fellow presenters while the soundtrack to 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' played in the background.

Stefanovic claimed that the show's cameraman had, "fought off tougher. Tougher trannies. They don't call him 'the bull' for nothing".

A joke was then made where a picture of Hugo Weaving, made up in character for 'Priscilla', was shown on-screen.

"The other thing is Chris, I know that you have gone to see the police about this tranny. We have a comfit made up and we know they don't all look the same. Is that the tranny they are talking about?" Karl laughed.

Many were outraged at Stefanovic's comments, and his use of the word 'tranny'. Even 'transvestite' is a problematic term, with American LGBTI group GLAAD outlining in its reference guide "Do not use the word 'transvestite' at all, unless someone specifically self-identifies that way."

Karl responded to an upset follower on Twitter on Thursday:

By Friday, he delivered a lengthy on-air apology.

"When I say ignorant, I mean it. I kind of pride myself in my own weird way of being across things. Yesterday I wasn't. I often laugh at things I shouldn't and most certainly say them, but I get it wrong and yesterday I got it very wrong," Stefanovic said, adding that it would be "the last time" he uses the word 'tranny'.

"By using the word 'tranny', I offended an awful lot of beautiful sensitive people. I didn't know the negative and deeply hurtful impact that has not only on the LBGT community but on their family and on their friends. Therein lies part of the problem I reckon. I've never bothered to ask," he said.

"And because I know trans people are fun loving, I actually assumed they would laugh along with me. I assumed wrong. Like so many other words we used in the past, it is now time to throw that one in the bin.

"I'm very sorry for the hurt I caused to this community. I spoke to a friend inside the community and he said what so many others told me since -- I crossed a line. I didn't know that line existed. I do now. I take this very seriously because I actually don't know what it is like to feel apart from the rest of mainstream society. I have no understanding of what it is like to feel you are born in the wrong body, to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, or the extreme courage it takes to accept yourself and live the life you have always wanted to live."

Today Show/Nine

Stefanovic admitted he did not know what the acronym LGBTQI stood for -- that's lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex, by the way -- and implored viewers to not make the same mistakes he did.

"To anyone who found the segment funny, please understand it was an ignorant jibe at the expense of a beautiful community already battling against the odds for main stream acceptance. I'm an ignorant fool at times and my humour is skewed in a very strange fashion. I get it wrong and probably always will, but as a result of yesterday, I have truly learned a lesson," he said.

"I have started to educate myself. I have started to and I encourage all of you at home to do the same. I will continue to make mistakes, but it would be great if everyone takes a leaf out of the LGBTQI's book and is open to talking about why they feel a certain way."

"Given the events of last year, we need more than ever to educate yourselves, laugh together and embrace everyone's differences and live with tolerance, compassion, love and respect for everyone."

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