The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper after he expressed “wrong” and “unfunny” views about the people of Liverpool, News UK has said.
It comes after Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson reported to police an article by MacKenzie which he claimed contained “a racial slur”.
The article was about Everton footballer Ross Barkley, who was punched in a Liverpool city centre bar in the early hours of Monday.
A News UK spokesman said: “The Sun’s columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the paper with immediate effect.
“The views expressed by Kelvin Mackenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper.
“The Sun apologises for the offence caused.
“The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended.
“Mr Mackenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be fully investigated on his return.”
England midfielder Barkley, 23, has a Nigerian grandfather.
Anderson tweeted that he had “just given a statement to Merseyside Police about the racist comments in the S*n today by Kelvin Mackenzie comparing Ross Barkley to an ape”.
In his column on Friday, MacKenzie wrote: “Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers.
“There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.
“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.
“So it came as no surprise to me that the Everton star copped a nasty right-hander in a nightclub for allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was ‘spoken for’.
“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”