A political commentator on Fox News has been criticised for defending an anti-gay rights lobby group who have made claims that there are connections between homosexuality and pedophilia.

Bill O’Reilly spoke to Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a debate over whether claims by the Family Research Council about links between being gay and pedophilia could be proven.

Speaking on The O’Reilly Factor, Potok began to refute claims that the FRC have made, including that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem”, and to point out that the claims were unfounded.

O’Reilly questioned Potok on this, saying:

“So [The FRC] are pointing out that in this area, there is a higher percentage of gay pedophilia, homosexual pedophilia, than heterosexual pedophilia. Are they a hate group for pointing that out?”

Potok denied that the claims were true, describing them as “false.” He went on to challenge other claims made by the group:

“They also say that gay people are “fundamentally incapable of being good parents.” That also is false and that has been shown by many studies, conducted not by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

O’Reilly went on to say: “I think the statistics are that the male-boy pedophilia problem is much more intense than the male-girl pedophilia problem.”

The talk show host has been heavily criticised for defending the claims by the group, who have been accused of demonising the LGBT community. Critics have gone so far as to say that O’Reilly didn’t understand the claims that he was defending.

In May, Media Matters and gay groups GLAAD, the Courage Campaign and Equality Matters asked an LGBT-friendly online travel promoter to drop its ads on Fox. The campaign had said that a number of Fox presenters and guests – including Bill O’Reilly promoted “misinformation, smears and flat-out lies” against gay people.