Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a press release on Monday that he apologized to Romanian a journalist whom he abused during the Saturday referendum. The press release says the head of state regrets using an inappropriate phrase regarding TV reporter Andreea Pana in a private conversation with his wife, a conversation that has become public and brought moral prejudice to the journalist.

Basescu unleashed against a Pana, a reporter for a TV station controlled by one of his political rivals, while shopping during the May 19 referendum that had the Romanian people decide whether he should be removed from office or not.

Basescu took the journalist’s cell phone and put it into his pocket when he and his wife left in their car from a supermarket, where he was received by a crowd of journalists. But he forgot the cell open, recording a conversation in which he told his wife that Pana was a “stinky Gypsy”.

According to the head of the Romanian Press Club, Cristian Tudor Popescu, Basescu’s acting during the incident was criminal on several accounts.

The press release today says Basescu used the abusive phrase in a moment of “maximum public and mediatic pressure” and that this was not his normal attitude towards the Rroma (Gypsy) community.