Michael Gove has sparked outrage by making a joke about sexual assault on the BBC's flagship radio news programme.
The Environment Secretary was appearing on a 60th anniversary edition of Today, aired before a live audience.
Asked by host John Humphrys about the challenge of facing an interview on the show, Mr Gove replied: "Sometimes I think that coming into the studio with you John is a bit like going into Harvey Weinstein's bedroom."
The remark was met with laughter and some applause from the audience at London's Wigmore Hall.
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, who was also appearing as a guest on the show, said: "John goes way past groping...way past groping."
"You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact," Mr Gove added.
He later apologised on Twitter, posting: "Apologies for my clumsy attempt at humour on R4 Today this morning -it wasn't appropriate. I'm sorry and apologise unreservedly."
His remarks prompted a storm of criticism on Twitter, from both celebrities and the public.
Singer Lily Allen simply called Mr Gove a "bonehead", while actor Stephen Mangan tweeted: "Morning. Here's a rape joke from Michael Gove to start your day."
There were many calls for Lord Kinnock to apologise, too, with one listener writing: "Sexual violence is no punchline".
Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine tweeted: "Neil Kinnock's reaction to the Harvey Weinstein joke by Michael Gove is the strangest thing about it."
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon led the chorus of criticism from politicians of Mr Gove's remarks.
The First Minister of Scotland tweeted: "Women being abused and raped is not a laughing matter. And it doesn't make us 'humourless' to say so."
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Mr Gove was "not funny" adding: "Given current sensitivities (it) is beyond poor judgement - it's crass."
Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy were also quick to condemn the Cabinet minister's comments.
Ms Phillips tweeted: "Michael Gove just left the studio without his dignity."
Ms Creasy posted: "This look didn't work for james corden…gove joking about sexual assault just as crass too…"
Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson added her voice, tweeting: "No, @michaelgove it's not like that. I have never once feared for my personal safety in a media studio. Don't trivialise sexual assault."
The controversy comes just a day after the Prime Minister expressed her concern over reports of a culture of sexual harassment at Westminster.
Jeremy Corbyn, speaking on Saturday, said there was a "warped and degrading culture" in the corridors of power and that MPs who abuse and harass women must be held accountable.
Sunday's newspapers make new accusations: including against international trade minister Mark Garnier by a former secretary; while former Tory minister Stephen Crabb has admitted sending explicit texts to a woman who applied for a job.
Mr Garnier disputes his behaviour constituted sexual harassment.
Mr Crabb has reportedly admitted he was "foolish" and apologised, and also insisted there was no sexual contact.
The Sun has also claimed a WhatsApp group of female employees at Westminster is used to warn members about MPs and other senior figures from across the political parties.
Labour MP Jared O'Mara has been suspended by the party after a string of historical online comments emerged, together with new claims he used transphobic slurs and called a woman he dated an "ugly b****".
On Tuesday, the Today programme apologised for failing to challenge a claim made by climate change denier Lord Lawson.
The former chancellor said in an interview in August that global temperatures have not risen in the last decade, while recent evidence suggests world heat records have been broken in each of the last three years.