Brendan Cole has apologised to his fans after he shared a social media post about face masks not working.
The New Zealand ballroom dancer was quick to delete the Instagram photo following some backlash, and later issued a statement in a separate upload.
The original post – which the former Strictly Come Dancing star has since deleted – was a re-share of a message from Dr Joseph Mercola.
It read: "The first randomised trial of more than 6,000 individuals to assess the effectiveness of surgical face masks against SARS- CoV-2 infection did not statistically significantly reduce the incident of infection."
Instagram bosses slapped the post with a warning, stating: "Independent fact-checkers say this information has no basis in fact."
In his later statement, he told his 87.6k followers: "I am entitled to my opinion on the subject but if I have offended you, for this I am sorry.
"If you are indeed upset by it, I do understand. I will point out that there is plenty of evidence on the contrary and it is up to each of us to believe what we believe.
"I am doing as I am told and wearing but have the right to protest…or at least I used to!
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"We now seem to be living in a world where we are not allowed different views and will simply abuse anyone who thinks differently."
He went on to tell his followers he will continue sharing posts about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brendan added: "I will continue to believe in the information from many medical practitioners and professionals in the know and continue to believe that this has been the wrong way to handle things, not only regarding the info in the post but with the various measures put in place.
"If you disagree with me, I will listen and debate but I will not abuse you for thinking differently.
"My intention was not to offend, simply to have a voice. I wish you all well and hope that the many people who’s [sic] lives are in ruins because of the various measures put in place will stay strong and somehow recover," the dad-of-two added.
His fans were quick to comment on the post, with some telling him he shouldn't have deleted the original one.
"Should have left it up. Don't pander to the snowflakes (sic)," one person posted.
A second added: "Don't know what this is about as missed your post earlier but you should not have to apologise to anyone for your opinion everyone has a voice and a right to use it."
A third fan wrote: "I agree you should have your freedom of speech, like we all should be entitled to xx."
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