Fox news radio host John Gibson has issued an apology for mocking comments made about the death of young actor Heath Ledger during his show.

Initially Gibson had refused to apologise, but relented after continued calls for him to be fired.

Shortly after Ledger’s death, Gibson played an audio clip from Brokeback Mountain of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Jack, telling Ennis (played by Ledger), “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

Gibson then coldly quipped, “Well, he found out how to quit you.”

Then, after playing another audio clip from the movie of Ledger’s character saying, “We’re dead,” Gibson mockingly said with a fake country accent, “We’re dead” and played the clip again.

During Gibson’s My Word segment on Fox News on Thursday, Gibson issued an reluctant apology about the controversial comments made regarding Ledger’s death.

“I’m sorry that some took my comments as anti-gay and insensitive,” he said.

“I’m aware that Ledger has a family and many fans who were grief stricken by his sudden death.

“Those who knew him say he was a great actor and loving man and what happened to him was terrible and evidently an accident.”

“Once again, to anyone offended by my comments,” Gibson stated.

“But I’m also sorry that Heath Ledger is no longer with us and alive. That is my word.”

Gibson had initially refused to apologise for his actions, saying it was just “a little Brokeback Mountain joke” and there is “no point in passing up a good joke,” according to All Headline News.

In a statement released on Thursday by the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the organisation slammed Gibson, calling his comments “cruel and tasteless.”

“In the wake of Heath Ledger’s death, people around the world are mourning the gifted actor’s passing and are expressing their appreciation for how he changed hearts and minds with his Oscar-nominated role as a gay cowboy in 2005′s Brokeback Mountain,” the statement read.

The GLAAD “Call to Action” statement said Gibson “cruelly mocked Ledger’s death and his role in Brokeback Mountain.”

“Gibson’s remarks are vulgar and disgusting,” said Rashad Robinson, GLAAD’s Senior Director of Media Programmes.

“It’s sickening that Gibson would exploit Heath Ledger’s tragic death to promote such hurtful intolerance. And to do so at a time when family and friends are grieving shows a level of insensitivity that is beyond the pale.”

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist characterized Gibson’s comments as “unbelievable,” “grossly inappropriate,” and “hateful.”

The hosts called Gibson “sick,” callous,” and “totally out of line.”

Brzezinski said, “I don’t know how you stay on the air after doing something like that, quite frankly.”

Beyond his mockery of Ledger’s role in Brokeback Mountain, Gibson called the actor a “weirdo” with “a serious drug problem,” and callously speculated on the reasons Ledger might have committed suicide.

Gibson had previously mocked Brokeback Mountain, calling it a “gay agenda movie” on his Fox News TV programme in 2006.

GLAAD is asking people to contact Fox news and “ask its representatives why they continue to provide a platform for John Gibson’s cruel and tasteless comments.”

© 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved