New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has come under fire for using the word “gay” as a pejorative in a radio interview.

Key was talking to radio host Jamie Mackay on The Farming Show last week and jokingly criticised a red top worn by presenter.

“You’re munted mate. You’re never going to make it. You’ve got that gay red top on,” he said.

Key was asked about the comments at a press conference yesterday and denied he was homophobic.

“No, I’m voting for gay marriage, I’m hardly homophobic – I led the charge on it,” he told reporters.

“A hell of a lot of people would use [the word gay] and the common use of it is in the Oxford Dictionary.

“Young people use it all the time, I don’t think too many people would be offended by it. If someone is I apologise for it.”

One person who was offended was actor and sometime New Zealand resident Ian McKellen, who took to his website to criticise the comment and Key’s defence.

“He said he was using the word in the sense that his children used it and not in any way to disparage gay people… he said the word was in the dictionary.  So of course are many other words that can give offence,” McKellen wrote.

“Mr Key should watch his language.  I’m currently touring secondary schools in UK, attacking homophobia in the playground and discouraging kids from the careless use of ‘gay’ which might make their gay friends (and teachers) feel less about themselves.”

You can read McKellen’s full blog post here.

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