Veteran television interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson has courted controversy following comments he made saying the late Jade Goody "came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain".

In an interview with the Radio Times, Sir Michael, 74, described the media circus that surrounded Ms Goody's fight with cervical cancer as "nothing to be proud of" and rejected the tabloid comparisons with the death of Princess Diana.

He said: "When we clear the media smokescreen from around her death what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today.

"She was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know both drugs and crime, was barely educated, ignorant and puerile. Then she was projected to celebrity by Big Brother and, from that point on, became a media chattel to be manipulated and exploited till the day she died."

His "astonishing" comments have angered fans, and Goody's publicist Max Clifford said he was "very sad and surprised" by Sir Michael's remarks.

The television presenter, who retired from his ITV show in 2007, added he was concerned by the media's turbulent relationship with the late reality television star.

"What bothers me is that the media first of all recommended we hate Jade Goody - 'a slapper with a face like a pig', remember? And shortly thereafter tried to persuade us to celebrate her," he said.

He added Jade was "a perfect victim of our times" and highlighted the difference between the role models available to today's young people and stars such as Ingrid Bergman and Alan Whicker whom he looked up to when he was a boy.

But he was keen the meaning of Jade's death was not overplayed.

He concluded: "Her death is as sad as the death of any young person, but it's not the passing of a martyr or a saint or, God help us, Princess Di."

07/04/2009 12:25:36