Kentucky Fried Chicken has pulled a controversial Australian cricket ad and apologised for "any misinterpretation" as furious debate raged in the American media about whether it was racist.
The commercial, featuring a white Australian cricket fan offering fried chicken to West Indies supporters, has been pulled from the air in Australia.
"KFC Australia is removing the television advertisement that was being run in conjunction with the Australian cricket season," the fast-food giant's US head office announced.
"We apologise for any misinterpretation of the ad as it was not meant to offend anyone."
The TV commercial was picked up by the US media, including the New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun, and drew heated debate, with some Americans accusing Australians of racism because it perpetuates a stereotype that African Americans eat a lot of fried chicken.
The ad is one in a series where a cricket lover quietens people around him by giving them KFC to eat so he can enjoy the game.
The New York Daily News staged a poll on its website asking if the ad was offensive.
The vote was almost split, with 51 per choosing "No, it's just lighthearted and fun" while 42 per cent selected "Yes, it plays on stereotypes".
Six per cent voted "I'm not sure".
Readers inundated the newspaper website with emotional posts.
"This was blatantly racist," one reader commented.
Another wrote: "Yeah, coming from the same people who almost singlehandedly wiped out the whole race of aborogines (sic). You people are the worst. I've had friends who visited Australia and they told me how it is over there."
Australians, upset at the American response, bombarded US news websites and blogs to defend the ad and attempt to explain Australian humour.
"Oh dear," an Australian wrote on the Baltimore Sun site.
"Another shining example of how some Americans can be absolutely clueless about anything further away than the tip of their own nose."
The furore began in the US after the ad was posted on YouTube, attracting thousands of comments and leading members of the public to post their own video responses.