The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has suggested new laws would hold to account streaming sites airing jokes such as those made by Jimmy Carr about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community and the Holocaust.
Anti-hate groups including the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Auschwitz Memorial and Hope Not Hate have condemned the comedian’s comments in his Netflix special.
Carr issued a “trigger warning” to the audience at the beginning of his one-hour special, His Dark Material, admitting his performance contained “terrible things”.
In a widely shared clip from the show, Carr joked about the horror of “six million Jewish lives being lost” before suggesting the deaths of thousands of Gypsies at the hands of the Nazis had been one of “the positives” of the Holocaust.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Saturday, the culture secretary said the comments were “abhorrent and they just shouldn’t be on television”.
She said: “We are looking at legislation via the media bill, which would bring into scope those comments from other video-on-demand streaming outlets like Netflix.”
It was put to her that in a tweet in 2017 she had claimed that “leftwing snowflakes are killing comedy”.
She said: “Well, that’s not comedy. What Jimmy Carr did last night is not comedy. And you know, I’m no angel on Twitter, nobody is, but I just would like to say that nothing I’ve ever put on Twitter has been harmful or abusive.
“But that last night … Jimmy Carr’s comments, no one can call that, you know, snowflake or wokeishness, that’s just … it was just appalling.”
She said the comments were “shocking and abhorrent and unacceptable, not just because he was making fun on the basis of people who died in the most appalling circumstances, but on the pain and suffering of many thousands of families”.
Dorries told Times Radio: “We don’t have the ability now, legally, to hold Netflix to account for streaming that, but very shortly we will.”
The comedian and writer David Baddiel condemned Carr’s comments on Twitter on Saturday and suggested they were “cruel and inhumane and mean-spirited and racist”.
Baddiel shared an excerpt from his Trolls: Not The Dolls tour “as part of a bit arguing that it’s not the subject matter of a joke that counts, it’s the specifics of the individual joke”.
“Meanwhile, away from stupid discussions about the limits of comedy, my sympathies are with the Roma and Sinti community who suffered so much during the Holocaust,” Baddiel added.
The chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Olivia Marks-Woldman, said she and the rest of the organisation were “horrified that gales of laughter followed [Carr’s] remarks”.
“Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people suffered prejudice, slave labour, sterilisation and mass murder simply because of their identity – these are not experiences for mockery,” Marks-Woldman added.
The Traveller Movement, a charity supporting the traveller community in the UK, said the comments were “truly disturbing” and went “way beyond humour”.
In a tweet, the charity announced that it had launched a petition to Netflix calling for “the removal of the segments of His Dark Material which celebrate the Romani genocide”.
The Auschwitz Memorial urged Carr on Twitter to “learn about the fate of some 23 thousand Roma & Sinti deported to Auschwitz”, adding: “It’s sad to hear words that can fuel prejudice, hurt people & defile memory of their tragedy.”
A representative for Carr has been contacted for comment.