TV star Dennis Leary has defended a chapter in his new book, Why We Suck, entitled “Matt Dillon is a Giant Fag.”

The actor, who achieved success as a stand up comedian before diversifying into screen roles, told gay magazine The Advocate, that he reacts against being told what he can and cannot say.

“I also have a chapter called, ‘We’d Hate You Even If You Weren’t Black,’ ” Mr Leary said when challenged over his use of the word ‘fag.’

“I don’t believe in the power of words.

“My parents came from Ireland, where the C-word is literally a word your mother and father would use to describe the weather or the car: ‘That c**ting car won’t start!’

“And I come from a Catholic background where the nuns were always telling you, ‘Don’t do this, don’t say this,’ so any time anyone tells me I shouldn’t say something, my reaction is, ‘Why not?’ ”

Veteran Hollywood star Jerry Lewis is also under attack for using the word fag to describe the game of cricket on a visit to Australia.

A spokesperson for the Australian Coalition for Equality spokesperson said:

“Mr Lewis owes an apology to the gay community, to cricketers, and to comedians for debasing their trade with his cheap homophobia.

“Mr. Lewis is widely admired by many people for his talent and his charity work, so his words carry great weight, and can foster great prejudice.”