A day after he was fired as the voice of Aflac Inc.’s iconic duck, controversial comic Gilbert Gottfried has apologized for making a series of mean-spirited Twitter jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement Tuesday. “I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families."
Gottfried has voiced the duck in the insurer's TV ad campaign in the U.S. since 2000, but the company said Monday that the dozen jokes he Tweeted “were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac.” A nationwide casting call to find a new voice is now underway.
Aflac Inc., which made its name selling cancer expense policies in Japan in the 1970s, still derives about three-quarters of its revenue in the country.
On Tuesday, Joan Rivers rushed to Gottfried's defense.
"Oh come on people-this is just outrageous! Gilbert Gottfried was FIRED from Aflac for making jokes about the tsunami in Japan," she Twittered Tuesday.
"That's what comedians do!!! We react to tragedy by making jokes to help people in tough times feel better through laughter," added Rivers, whose reality show with her daughter, Melissa, was renewed by WE tv Tuesday.
Howard Stern also defended Gottfried on his show Tuesday.
"Here is the guy that as long as I know has been making jokes... you couldn't ask for a more inappropriate human being," said Stern of Gottfried (via TMZ), who frequently appears on his Sirius XM show. "When the Aflac people hired him to be the duck, they knew...his humor is offensive... There's no reason for him to be fired. But to be fired for offensiveness... he should never have been hired then."