A massive row has broken out in New Zealand after former BBC host Paul Henry called Susan Boyle "retarded".

Talking on his TV show this week Henry laughed as he described how the global superstar was "starved of oxygen" at birth and suffered an intellectual disability.

"Here's the really interesting revelation," he said, "she is in fact retarded ...

"And if you look at her carefully, you can make it out," he said.

His co-host Pippa Wetzell immediately blasted Henry on-air.

Wetzel told Henry: “That is not funny. That’s awful. She’s had such a tragic life that woman.”

Henry has since attempted to defend his comments, saying they were made in a light-hearted fashion.

He said he had done nothing wrong and that it was okay to use the word retarded in relation to  people with intellectual disabilities.

"The remarks I made were specifically with regard to Susan Boyle and they were light-hearted," he said.