By Josh Rottenberg
Updated November 08, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST
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Ratner Oscars
Credit: Jordan Strauss/WireImage/Getty Images

Dogged by growing controversy over his use of an anti-gay slur after a screening of his movie Tower Heist and boorish comments he made about his sex life on The Howard Stern Show, Brett Ratner has stepped down as the producer of this year’s Oscars telecast.

Yesterday, in an attempt to tamp down an explosion of bad press surrounding Ratner’s remark that “rehearsal is for fags,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak expressed support for Ratner, even as he criticized his comments as “inappropriate…dumb and insensitive,” saying that “we all make mistakes and I believe he didn’t mean it.” But the pressure to distance Ratner from the Academy and its most important event clearly became too great, and Ratner told Sherak this morning he would be stepping down.

“He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself,” Sherak said in a statement. “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.”

Exactly who might step in to replace Ratner (who was partnered with veteran TV producer Don Mischer) is still unclear, as is the question of whether Eddie Murphy will serve as the Oscars host as planned. Murphy’s rep declined to comment to EW.

Ratner released an open letter to the film industry. It reads, in full:

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