John Crosbie, Newfoundland and Labrador's lieutenant-governor, issued a conditional apology Thursday  after coming under fire for a joke about Pakistan suicide bombers that some found offensive.

"If anyone who thinks the joke is offensive, or there's something wrong with it, well I'll apologize to them, sure. If that's what they think. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings," he said.

Crosbie told the joke at last week's swearing-in of provincial cabinet ministers.

"I called a suicide hotline. I got a call centre in Pakistan. When I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited and asked me if I could drive a truck," he said.

Crosbie said he will be more careful in the future and doesn't want people to come to the wrong conclusion.

"I'm not a racist. Never have been, but they're sensitive about it apparently. I'm not going to get into any argument with them, except notice their opinion and I'm sorry that they were disturbed," he said.

Newly-minted cabinet ministers laughed during Crosbie's speech, but Pakistani students at Memorial University of Newfoundland didn't find his comments funny.

"When I heard this for the first time, it was shocking for me. It's not in line with the spirit of Newfoundland. The people of Newfoundland are very friendly. I have not felt or heard these kinds of jokes here in Newfoundland," said student Wasiq Waqar.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who was at the ceremony, issued a statement calling the remarks inappropriate.