The BBC has stood by its satirical quiz show Have I Got News For You after guest presenter Jo Brand read a joke about Prince Harry snorting cocaine. The comedian made the remark during Friday's edition (October 25, 2013) of the show - featuring team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton - in a discussion about Prince George's godparents.
Reading from the autocue, Brand 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 joke prompted Hislop to ask, "Have we lost the lawyers?"
It was described by defence minister Anna Soubry as "disgraceful, shoddy, appalling and out of order."
The Tory MP added: "Jo Brand should not have stooped to that level and both she and the BBC should apologise."
The former head of the army Lord Dannatt said: "It might have been said as a joke but the suggestion is outrageous. It is a very unfortunate joke to make and most inappropriate."
However, the BBC said it stood by the tongue-in-cheek joke, suggesting it was in-keeping with the show's irreverent brand of humour.
"This line was a play on words as part of a section on the surnames of those involved in the christening and was clearly tongue-in-cheek," said a spokesperson.
According to The Guardian, the prince once confessed to his father, the Prince of Wales, that he smoked cannabis and was taken to a drug rehabilitation clinic for one day in 2002, however, there has never been any suggestion that he has taken cocaine.
Brand, a Labour supporter and noted republican, said she didn't write the joke but stood by it anyway, "I didn't write it. I read it out from the autocue. I thought it was funny. I don't really understand what the fuss is about," she said, "I am not going to apologise. I didn't write it but I did say it so I am culpable in some way."
Tory chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee John Wittingdale said he thought the joke was at the boundary of what is acceptable though did not go over the edge, "It's a late night satirical programme and this particular joke is the sort of thing you'd expect," he said.
"Some people might not like it but I don't think it goes so far as to breach the broadcasting code. Have I Got News For You has a long tradition of pretty risque jokes and pushing at the limits, and this is another case of that.
"If it's deeply offensive that's another matter, but I don't think it was that bad," he added.
Prince Harry At The Wedding of James Meade and Lady Laura Marsham