Judy Finnigan has been criticised for suggesting convicted rapist footballer Ched Evans should be allowed to return to his club, because the attack "wasn't violent" and the victim had "far too much to drink".
Speaking on her Loose Women debut, Finnigan appeared to defend Evans, claiming he "didn't cause any bodily harm" and should not be punished further.
Evans, 25, was jailed for five years in 2012 for raping a 19-year-old girl at a hotel in Rhyl, north Wales, and is due to be released from prison imminently.
The veteran broadcaster later apologised for any offence caused by her comments, telling ITV News she "wasn't suggesting that rape was anything other than an horrendous crime".
"The rape and I am not, please, by any means minimising any kind of rape - but the rape was not violent. He didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person," Finnigan said during the discussion.
"It was unpleasant, in a hotel room I believe. She was - had far too much to drink.
"And you know, that is reprehensible, but he has been convicted and he has served his time.
"Now when he comes out, what are we supposed to do? Just actually refuse to let him do his job? Again, even though he has already been punished?"
Finnigan's comments sparked outrage on social media with many accusing the former This Morning host of "justifying rape".
In a statement to ITV News, Finnigan said: "I absolutely wasn't suggesting that rape was anything other than an horrendous crime and, as I said on the programme, I was in no way attempting to minimise the terrible ordeal that any woman suffers as a result.
"The point I was attempting to raise as part of the debate was what should happen to someone after they have committed a crime and served their time?
"I apologise unreservedly for any offence that I may have caused as a result of the wording I used."
A spokesperson for Loose Women said: "Loose Women is a daily talk show centred around topical debate and frank discussion. Opinions are expressed and exchanged from a mix of viewpoints."
Over 140,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sheffield United to prevent Evans from returning to his former club.
ITV News has approached Sheffield United for comment, and is awaiting a response.