The BBC has defended it star signing Graham Norton after he told Marie Claire magazine that taking ecstasy was “just fantastic”.

The 43-year-old gay star was criticised by anti-drug groups for saying: “The only time I took ecstasy was years and years ago. It was absolutely amazing. It was just fantastic – really, really fun.”

Adding: “I’ve tried loads of drugs, but it would really bug me if I got busted in the tabloids because I take them so rarely.”

The Conservative chairman of the House of Commons Culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale said: “To boast about the extent of your drug abuse and enjoyment, as he seems to have done, sends a message which is extremely dangerous and against everything which everyone, including the BBC, is trying to do.”

Responding, the BBC said: “The issues Graham discusses in this interview are aimed at an adult audience and reflect the frank and open nature of his personality.

“They do not in any way impact on his ability to be a first class entertainer on BBC television.”

A spokesman for the National Drug Prevention Alliance said: “We’re appalled, it’s absolutely mind-blowing that somebody has said that.

“He’s in the public eye and influencing young people, so who is it helping? I don’t know – I’m just staggered.”

Earlier this year, Norton claimed that he’s too old to be attractive to other gay men.

He told Closer magazine: “People don’t ever throw themselves at me. They come over and say hello but they’re not going to waste time having sex with you when you’re an older man.

“That’s just how the gay world works. I’m normally single so it’s not really that weird being on my own now.”