Is The X Factor Racist? We Ask the PublicIBTimes UK

Unless you have been living under a rock since Christmas, you are probably aware that Chris O'Dowd believes that X Factor viewers are racist.

The 34-year-old Irish actor of IT Crowd fame claimed that black hopefuls on the ITV talent show were at a disadvantage because voters did not support ethnic minorities.

"Generally, my favourites go out in the first few weeks and, of course, because the viewing public is so racist, all the black, strong singers go out in round five every year," the self-proclaimed X Factor fan said.

Although the comic was not the first to debate racism in the competition, he still managed to ruffle a few feathers.

As you would expect X Factor boss Simon Cowell branded him "ridiculous" before firing off a list of previous black star's which included boyband JLS, 2008 champ Alexandra Burke, and Leona Lewis, who is half black.

"He [O'Dowd] is ignorant, it's actually insulting to hear him say that. And it's insulting to our audience," the music mogul told Entertainmentwise.

TV's Mr Nasty was not alone. Even some of O'Dowd's fans accused him of pulling the race card and being intentionally controversial.

"It's a bit bigoted," one viewer told IBTimes UK when we asked people their opinions on the street. "I'm from Yorkshire and I don't see and racist connotations within the X Factor.

"The man needs a good slap to the face. He needs bringing down to earth with a shadow of a doubt."

Was O'Dowd trying to rock the boat or simply saying what many people were are afraid to?

"I wouldn't describe voters as racist but there's something more subtle going on which makes it harder for contestants with a darker physical complexion to win the public vote," Operation Black Vote Simon Woolley said.

"Generally, the 'blacker' the artist, the harder it is for the public to warm to them."

Last year's finalist, Hannah Barrett, revealed that she was subjected to racist abuse from the black community during her stint on the show because she was considered to be too dark to be successful in the music industry.

"People say, 'You're black and ugly' and nasty things like that," she told Reveal magazine at the time. "The sad thing is that most of them are made by black people who just have lighter skin than me."

When Jade Goody called Shilpa Shetty a "Shilpa Poppadom" and mocked the Indian actresses accent on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007, it was racism in its purest form.

But is choosing not to vote for somebody you don't connect with - for whatever reason – discrimination?

One source insists that letting race triumph over talent is just plain wrong.

"It's usually white people voting for their own and black people don't get voted. It shouldn't be like that, " she said.

While O'Dowd's comments may have earned him a few enemies, he has succeeded in putting discrimination in entertainmnet back on the agenda.