The Apprentice contestants are said to be furious that Lottie Lion has been ‘let off with a slap on the wrist’ for an alleged racist remark towards rival Lubna Farhan.
The Sun newspaper previously reported that the 19-year-old librarian had told Farhan - whose parents are Pakistani - to "Shut up, Gandhi" in a WhatsApp group message for the contestants.
The BBC has now issued a statement saying: "While this happened on a private messenger service once filming had concluded, the BBC nevertheless still expects the candidates to behave appropriately. The production company have looked into the issue and reported back, Lottie has been informed that her comments were wholly unacceptable and is in no doubt about our view on this."
Axed Apprentice contestants Kenna Ngoma and Souleyman Bah have both spoken out condemning Lion’s remark as racist and at least four contestants are reported to have made official complaints. There have been calls for Lion to be axed from the BBC show - which was pre-recorded earlier this year, with the winner already decided.
Following the initial report in the Sun on Sunday of Lion’s comment about Farhan, 33, Lion told the newspaper: “My use of the word Gandhi was misinterpreted, it was as candidates in the group chat had been quoting Gandhi previously.
“The comments were taken out of context, and I again ask the public not to make judgement without knowing the full context.”
Bah responed to Lion’s denial on Twitter, saying: “Of course it’s true, I watched as you posted that message and felt so disgusted at how you could be so blatantly racist towards Lubna.”
Of course it’s true, I watched as you posted that message and felt so disgusted at how you could be so blatantly racist towards Lubna and also the comment about black people is subtlety showing off that you’re so posh you don’t mix with people like us (And no I wasn’t the source) https://t.co/6oUu2POR86— Souleyman Bah (@KingSoulGB) October 6, 2019
A spokesperson for Boundless, which produce the show, said: "Appropriate action is being taken and that is a matter between the production company and individual concerned."
The Apprentice - now in its 15th series - sees aspiring young entrepreneurs competing to win a £250,000 business investmen from Lord Sugar.