Top Gear’s motormouth puts his foot in it
LONDON: Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson has been forced to apologise after a joke he made about executing public sector workers for striking triggered a political row and thousands of complaints in the UK.
The outspoken TV presenter had remarked that public sector strikers should be “executed” in front of their families.
One union official threatened to report him to police, while another said his comments were worthy of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Even UK Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend of Clarkson, was dragged into the row, describing the remarks as “silly”, while Labour leader Ed Miliband said they were “disgusting”.
The BBC received almost 5 000 complaints about the interview on Wednesday.
Millions of viewers had seen the Top Gear host give his views on the day’s nationwide strikes on The One Show.
He said he liked the strikers, because the strike had meant there was no traffic on the roads.
But after insisting he had to be balanced as he worked for the impartial BBC, he launched into a satirical rant.
He said: “Frankly, I would have them shot. I would have them taken outside and executed in front of their families.”
Later in the show, he also complained about people who committed suicide by throwing themselves on railway lines, saying trains should not stop for them.
Cameron disassociated himself from the comments.
Cameron said: “It was a silly thing to say – I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
Miliband said the remark was “absolutely disgraceful and disgusting”.
The unions exploded in fury, calling on the BBC to sack the presenter and contacting lawyers to consider whether he could be reported to the police for inciting violence.
Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: ‘‘While he is driving round in fast cars for a living, public sector workers are busy holding our society together. They save others’ lives on a daily basis, they care for the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly.
“They wipe bottoms, noses, they help children to learn, and empty bins – they deserve all our thanks – certainly not the unbelievable level of abuse he threw at them.”
Unison health spokesman Karen Jennings described the comments as “almost like Gaddafi”.
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said Clarkson was a “man who bleeds a fortune out of the licence-payer for poncing around the world driving luxury cars”.
Bert Schouwenburg, of the GMB union, said: “GMB works with trade unions representing employees on banana and pineapple plantations in Latin America, where activists have met exactly the fate that Mr Clarkson describes.”
When Clarkson was asked for his reaction before flying out of the country, he said: “I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously – as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context.
“If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise for it alongside them,” said Clarkson.
The BBC said: “The One Show is a live topical programme which often reflects the day’s talking points. Usually we get it right, but on this occasion we feel the item was not perfectly judged.
“The BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused.”
Clarkson’s comments have regularly landed him in hot water. – Daily Mail
OUTSPOKEN: Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson speaks to a member of his crew while filming a segment outside 10 Downing Street in London.