LONDON — Television network ITV issued a humiliating apology after daytime hit show This Morning was fooled into running a feature on a hoax celebrity sperm bank.

The programme carried an interview with self-styled businessman Dan Richards, who said his company would match up women with donors including professional sportsmen and musicians.

Host Phillip Schofield revealed on air that they had launched an investigation into what had gone wrong.

And an ITV spokeswoman on Thursday said: "We obviously always make every effort to ensure the legitimacy of all the many stories which we feature on This Morning, as well as the authenticity of all guests.

"We carry out a range of checks, which in this case included verifying that this company was legally registered, and we did the interview in good faith.

"But it now appears that the man claiming to run a website for celebrity sperm donation was an actor working for a TV production company who clearly went to great lengths to pull the wool over the eyes of the programme and our audience."

Several national newspapers, including The Telegraph and The Sun, were also fooled into carrying the story.