I wasn’t going to mention a thing about the non-story of TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson being fired from the BBC. But given certain circumstances I find it difficult not to.
For those of you who have been living in a cave, Jeremy Clarkson has been the presenter of the popular BBC television motoring programme Top Gear since it’s inception in revamped form in 2002. Top Gear had previously ran from 1977 until cancelled in 2001, and the revamped version was actually Clarkson’s idea.
Clarkson has had a chequered past at the BBC and following several reprimands, had been told by late 2014 that he was on his final warning. In early March 2015 he allegedly verbally abused then threw a punch at his producer in a hotel, in an argument over not being able to get a hot dinner, landing the producer in hospital. He was suspended immediately and on 25 March 2015 was told that his contract would not be renewed. BBC Director General Tony Hall stated that he had “crossed a line”.
Before he was even fired, Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension brought an angry response from a huge number of Top Gear viewers and other supporters. A petition demanding his immediate reinstatement gathered over one million signatures and was delivered to the BBC in a hired tank. Celebrities voicing their support include Katie Hopkins, Gillian Anderson, Snoop Dog, Simon Cowell and the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Co-hosts of Top Gear, James May and Phillip Hammond, have said they will not film unless Clarkson is reinstated and there is every danger the show could be cancelled.
In my opinion it is time those voicing their support take a good long look at the facts about Jeremy Clarkson’s past.
At the British Press Awards in 2004, Jeremy Clarkson swore at then physically assaulted journalist Piers Morgan, leaving him with a scar he carries to this day.
In 2007 Clarkson told an audience member on Top Gear that he would not buy a particular car because it was “A bit gay” and “Very ginger beer” (rhyming slang for queer). These remarks led to him being nominated by Stonewall for Homophobe of the Year.
In 2008, Clarkson stated on an episode of Top Gear “What matters to lorry drivers? Murdering prostitutes? Fuel economy? This is a hard job and I’m not just saying this to win favour with lorry drivers: change gear; change gear; change gear; check your mirrors; murder a prostitute.” There was outrage from lorry drivers but communications ombudsman OfCom claimed that the comments were justified by their context.
Also in 2008, whilst hosting the BBC topical news quiz Have I Got News For You, Clarkson threw a ball-point pen at team captain, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, cutting his face. Clarkson refused to believe it was blood, claiming it was red ink but apologised later. On an episode of Question Time in March 2015, Hislop recounted this story, which was confirmed by former Liberal-Democrat Party Leader Charles Kennedy, who was also on the panel of the same show. Hislop stated that other assaults made by Jeremy Clarkson should be taken into consideration.
February 2009, Clarkson said of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “We have this one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything’s fine and he’s saved the world and we know he’s lying, but he’s smooth at telling us.” The anti-Scottish slur apart, Gordon Brown lost his sight in one eye after a rugby accident in 1967, and had to have three operations to save his sight altogether (calling Brown an idiot could also have landed Clarkson in trouble for revealing state secrets). Clarkson was forced to apologise personally to the Prime Minister.
The October 2009 issue of Top Gear Magazine carried an interview with Jeremy Clarkson, including the quote “The problem is that television executives have got it into their heads that if one presenter on a show is a blond-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy, the other must be a black Muslim lesbian. Chalk and cheese, they reckon, works. But here we have Top Gear setting new records after six years using cheese and cheese. It confuses them.” Racism, anti-Islamic bigotry, and homophobia in one statement, as well as attempting to slur his employers. No action taken.
In July 2010 the BBC clipped a section from an interview on Top Gear with Labour Party spin doctor in which Clarkson, talking about LGBT rights stated, “I demand the right not to be bummed.”
In August 2010 Jeremy Clarkson offended mentally disabled people by stating of one car, “a bit wrong … that smiling front end … it looked like a simpleton … should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs”
In February 2011 Clarkson stated that Mexican cars were like the national characteristics of Mexicans, stating they were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat” Co-host James May likened Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it” and added “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this[ snores]. They won’t complain, it’s fine.” The BBC issued an official apology to the Mexican Ambassador to the UK.
In July 2011 Clarkson likened one car to gay singer George Michael, stating “It’s very fast and very, very loud. And then in the corners it will get its tail out more readily than George Michael.” No action taken, but George Michael later described Clarkson as “homophobic” and “pig ugly”.
In August 2011, a year after offending disabled people, an episode of Top Gear showed Jeremy Clarkson and James May illegally parking electric cars in disabled parking bays.
On The One Show in December 2011, Jeremy Clarkson, talking about public sector workers on a 24 hour strike said they should be “executed in front of their families”. Complaints from 31,000 people forced the BBC into an apology.
The Daily Mirror put an unseen clip from a February 2013 episode of Top Gear, in which Clarkson used the rhyme “Eenie, meenie, mynie, mo.” before apparently mumbling the next line “Catch a nigger by the toe.” Clarkson has always denied this but the newspaper insists they have had it confirmed by audio forensic experts.
On a Top Gear Burma Special in March 2014, Jeremy Clarkson, commenting on a bridge which a Thai man was walking towards them on said “That is a proud moment – but there’s a slope on it.” In Thailand the word ‘slope’ is a racist term which infers Asians are of low intelligence.
Also in 2014, the Top Gear team took a photograph of Jeremy Clarkson asleep on a plane while one of them held a sign beside his head saying “Gay c**t”. Far from being offended, Clarkson thought it funny and posted the photograph to his Twitter page.
While filming the 2014 Top Gear Christmas Special, Jeremy Clarkson caused an international incident by driving around Argentina in a Porsche with the number plate H982 FLK. This was regarded by many Argentines as a reference to the 1982 war between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands, and the Top Gear were attacked by angry people stoning their cars. Clarkson compounded this by later calling Argentina a “mafia state” where British people were not welcome, provoking a response from the Argentine Embassy in London, who pointed out that Argentina is home to 250,000 UK citizens, the largest such community in South America.
Many find Jeremy Clarkson humorous, others enjoy his outspoken, no-nonsense approach, some claim he is intelligent. I can honestly see the appeal, but there is nothing funny nor intelligent about going about insulting people right, left and centre. Clarkson has always been a loose cannon and he has been ‘untouchable’ for too long. Perhaps had the BBC taken action earlier then the eventual assault upon the producer would not had happened.
But then, we see from the cases of Piers Morgan and Ian Hislop that Clarkson already has a history of violence. There was those who applauded Clarkson for hitting Piers Morgan, who is indeed an odious runt of an excuse for a human being, and someone I may be tempted to punch myself (Morgan has since claimed their feud is over and is another celebrity who called for Clarkson’s reinstatement. And Ian Hislop, whilst being highly intelligent and very witty, can come over as overbearing, arrogant and elitist at times. Nonetheless these early incidents indicate Clarkson’s propensity for violence, and when Ian Hislop asks for other assaults to be taken into consideration, then one can only wonder how many we do not know about.
But then, it need not be violence. Jeremy Clarkson’s past comments were enough to condemn him and see him sacked a long time ago. There is nothing remotely funny about abusing others based on their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or disability, which one would have thought the BBC would realise are simply not acceptable in the 21st century. similarly allowing odious slurs comparing all lorry drivers to murderers and stating that striking public sector workers (which includes BBC employees) should be shot in front of their families are totally unacceptable. As for dismissing one of their presenters creating an international incident, I would like to know just how the BBC square that with their motto, Nation shall speak peace unto nation? Relations between the UK and Argentina are strained enough without Clarkson and the BBC stirring the pot.
Some of Jeremy Clarkson’s supporters are trying to claim that this is a freedom of speech issue. It is not. Freedom of speech, contrary to what some may think, does not have the right to say whatever you want and insult whomsoever you like. Clarkson could very well have been prosecuted several times for hate speech, and in my estimation he should have been.
I couldn’t care less about what celebrities say about Jeremy Clarkson, they don’t speak for me and they do not speak for others. As for the Prime Minister, David Cameron however, what on earth was he thinking? Violence is always wrong but violence in the workplace should never be tolerated. By showing his support for Jeremy Clarkson, the Prime Minister is suggesting quite the opposite. In most workplaces assaulting an employee is grounds for immediate dismissal, which can be followed by the incident being reported to the police. Frankly, Jeremy Clarkson should count himself lucky to get off so lightly, and for the Prime Minister to back him up is completely reprehensible. One wonders how David Cameron would feel if he were verbally abused then physically assaulted in public for things he said? Believe me, there is no shortage of those who would like to do so.
As I type this the Prime Minister has since given a public statement that violence is unacceptable and Clarkson must “bear the consequences”. Too little, too late. I do also hear that Clarkson is now facing a police investigation, which is not before time in my opinion.
Enough is enough. I have been saying for years that Jeremy Clarkson is an odious man, more of an embarassment to the BBC than an asset worth his six figure salary, and an unintelligent no longer funny clown who should have been ditched years ago. He crossed the line years ago and should have been fired then.
Top Gear may or may not survive. Even if it does, some are saying that without Jeremy Clarkson it will never be the same. I for one could not care less. No state-owned television corporation should ever be a platform for a violent bigot to strut his stuff.
Finally, for those who signed the petition calling for Clarkson’s reinstatement, how many are aware that drew more than double the number who signed a petition calling for stronger action against Female Genital Mutilation in the UK. When more people care about the fate of a man who put a co-worker in hospital than they do about young girls having their genitals cut in insanitary conditions and without anesthetic, that is a shocking indictment upon UK society in 2015. Shame on you all.