Aflac Inc. has ended its relationship with the comedian who has been playing the Aflac duck.

Aflac, Columbus, (NYSE:GA)., says it made the decision to sever ties with Gilbert Gottfried because of jokes about the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunamis that Gottfried spread through Twitter.

Aflac has large cancer insurance, medical insurance and life insurance operations in Japan, and it said Monday that it is still assessing the needs of its agents.

“Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” Michael Zuna, Aflac’s chief marketing officer, says in a statement. “Aflac Japan– and, by extension, Japan itself–is part of the Aflac family. And there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.”

Aflac says it is now conducting a nationwide casting call to find a new voice for its duck.

Gilbert has apologized for the jokes.

“I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan,” Gilbert says in a statement. “I meant no disrespect. And my thoughts are with the victims and their families.”

- Warren S. Hersch

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