An American TV news host Shepard Smith has apologised for calling Robin Williams a "coward" following the actor's death.

Smith, a host on Fox News, made the comment on Monday night during coverage of the Academy Award-winning actor-comedian's death at the age of 63.

He was speaking about how Williams' death might affect his three adult children.

"Its hard to imagine, isn't it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they're in their mid-20s, and they're inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known," Shepard said.

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"And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you're such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today."

Critics took to social media to lambast the host.

Now Shepard has apologised.

In a statement online he said: "To the core of my being, I regret it. It just came out of my mouth. And I'm so sorry. And to anyone and their families who see that, I am sorry."

Fox News had no immediate comment. Shepard was due back on air today.

- AP