The BBC and Mensa have both apologised after a leading member of the society called anyone with an IQ below 60 a “carrot” live on air.
Peter Baimbridge, a Mensa member, made the comments during an interview with BBC Breakfast.
He was being asked about the effectiveness of IQ tests at judging intelligence.
"So most IQ tests will have Mr and Mrs Average scoring 100 and the higher you get, the brighter you are. And if your IQ is somewhere around 60 then you are probably a carrot," Mr Baimbridge said.
A number of viewers contacted the programme to voice concerns over the remarks, which they said insulted people with learning difficulties.
The hosts, Louise Minchin and Charlie Stayt apologised at the end of the programme and read out an apology from Mr Baimbridge.
The presenters also read out some of the complaints on air. British Mensa apologised for the comment, saying it was: "totally inappropriate and does not represent the society's official position or view".
One viewer, an employee of learning disability charity Mencap, said she was "shocked" and "disgusted" by the comments.
Ciara Evans, who has a learning disability, urged Mr Baimbridge to "engage his brain before his mouth".
One of the complaints read out on air came from a Dr Sullivan who said: "As a clinical psychologist who has worked with many people who have an IQ below 60, I find these comments to be offensive and completely incorrect. Such comments perpetuate the stigma around an individual with learning difficulties."
A BBC spokeswoman said: "A number of viewers contacted BBC Breakfast this morning, who were offended by comments made by a contributor during a live interview on the programme.
"Following the initial item, we broadcast a selection of the complaints on-air a short time later in the programme, and both presenters apologised at the end of the programme and read out a personal apology from the contributor.
"Clearly we do not condone the comments that were made in any way and sincerely apologise for the offence caused."
John Stevenage, Mensa chief executive said: "We would like to apologise for any offence caused by Peter Baimbridge's remark. It most certainly does not reflect the views of the society or of our members.
"The society looks at levels of IQ. However, it fully recognises that it is not what level of mental ability someone has but what they do with it that is the real achievement in life.
"Peter himself very much regrets the comment and would like to offer sincere apologies to those people offended by the remark."
According to Mencap, 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability.
Ms Evans, a campaigns assistant with the charity, said: "As a person with a learning disability, I am shocked that someone has described people like me as carrots.
"We can achieve a lot in life: I live independently, have a full-time job and I'm getting married next year."
A number of parents and carers called and emailed the charity's helpline saying they found Mr Baimbridge's comment "deeply offensive".
Ms Evans said: "I am disgusted that he made this comment and on behalf of all the people who have tweeted, rung and emailed Mencap to say how upset they are, I think Mensa should apologise and he should engage his brain before his mouth. It seems that having a high IQ doesn't make you a sensitive or caring human being."
Mensa was founded in England in 1946 by Roland Berrill, a barrister, and Lance Ware, a scientist and lawyer, who wanted to form a society for people with a high IQ.