Two BBC radio presenters face the sack after insulting disabled people live on an Albion phone-in show.

Andrew Hawes and Ian Hart have been taken off the airwaves at BBC Southern Counties after using the phrase “window licker” – a derogatory term for a disabled person.

The BBC refused to confirm what action was being taken against the broadcasters but issued an “unreserved apology”.

However, The Argus understands that both have been suspended and disciplinary hearings will take place next week.

Mr Hart, who has been hosting the post-match phone-in for ten years, last night apologised for the gaffe and conceded that what he had said was “grossly inappropriate”.

The furore erupted after Mr Hart told a fan to “go and lick a window” in a row about manager Micky Adams after Albion’s win over Leyton Orient on Tuesday night. His comment was followed by Mr Hawes urging “any window lickers out there” to call the show.

The outburst sparked fury among disabled charities.

A spokeswoman for Mencap said: “We are appalled that such offensive language is still used.

“People with a learning disability are a valuable part of our society and it is a disgrace that they are treated as objects to make fun of. We are pleased to see this was taken seriously by the BBC and hope that they discipline the presenters appropriately.”

Ian MacRae, editor of Disability Now magazine, said: “It is unacceptable that people on public radio believe they can come out with stuff like this. I urge anyone who was offended to complain to the regulator.”

Mr Hawes, who has commentated on Albion games for several years, yesterday declined to comment.

But Mr Hart, 44, said: “I apologised unreservedly three times on air and I apologise again now. In that split second I didn’t realise the severity of what I was saying.

“I now know it was grossly inappropriate.”

Brighton and Hove Albion and a charity for people with learning disabilities last night sprang to Mr Hart’s defence.

Sussex Seals said its members adored Mr Hart and the furore was “political madness gone extremely mad”.

Albion spokesman Paul Camillin said: “Ian is a caring and compassionate individual and does a lot of fine work in the community, much of it out of the media spotlight.

“At our recent home game against Walsall he brought a party of ill and disabled children to the match.

“There is no doubt Ian’s comments were misjudged but they were said in the heat of the moment and I know he is devastated that he has offended anybody.”

Yesterday opinions were split among fans on North Stand Chat, with dozens rallying to support Mr Hart while others called for him to be sacked.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We issue an unreserved apology for the comments that have been made.

“The BBC takes this kind of issue extremely seriously and action is being taken.”

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