By Richard Shears In Sydney
Huge fan base: Bindi, 11, playing around with a crocodile toy on tour in the US
Bindi Irwin, the 11-year-old daughter of the late adventurer Steve Irwin, has been described as 'a bit creepy' by a female comedian - to a chorus of outrage.
With a gesture to the audience of a TV music quiz show, Australian Fiona O'Loughlin also suggested that Bindi needed a slap in the face.
Adding to the insults, Miss O'Loughlin then performed an exaggerated impersonation of the child star's voice.
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Popular: Bindi is in Washington promoting her new movie with mother Terri and brother Robert
Bindi and her mother Terri have come in for criticism by those who say the youngster has been groomed too quickly for showbusiness and is missing out on the fun that other children enjoy.
The claims have been denied by Mrs Irwin, whose husband died in 2006 when he was stabbed in the heart by a stingray barb off the Queensland coast, and by Bindi herself.
But Bindi, who has starred in her own TV show and sings and dances in Australia and the United States, also has a large fan base and her admirers have pounced on Miss O'Loughlin.
Daddy's girl: Bindi with father Steve Irwin, 'The Crocodile Hunter' and mother Terri
Under fire: comedian Fiona O'Loughlin
TV viewers swamped the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's switchboard after the show, describing her as 'tasteless', 'un-Australian' and 'a bully'.
Miss O'Loughlin defended her comments, saying she did not know what all the fuss was about.
'It was part of some banter on a comedy panel show,' she said.
'I'm a comedian and comedians make fun of people we know. I've said worse about myself.'
But her outburst stunned other panelists, among them Chris Durling, a former member of Bindi's singing and dancing group Bindi's Crocmen.
He said Bindi was 'gorgeous' and down to earth, adding, 'what you see is what you get'.
It was then that Miss O'Loughlin cut in with: 'Yeah, a freak show'.
Bindi and her mother are in America to promote Bindi's new film, Free Willy 4, and have not commented on the comedian's outburst.
Newspaper readers were quick to add their criticism, one commentator in Sydney's Daily Telegraph describing Miss O'Loughlin as being 'no better than a school yard bully.'