'Top Gear' Cleared by U.K. Regulators After Calling Mexicans 'Lazy'
A watchdog group rules the comments could be read out of context as “very offensive,” but were part of the program’s “irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humor."
CANNES – It prompted a significant decline in U.K./Mexico relations and a formal complaint from Mexico’s ambassador to London, but the Top Gear episode in which the hosts described Mexicans as “lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight” has been cleared of breaching program rules by the British media regulator Ofcom.
Although the watchdog group said the comments could be read out of context as “very offensive,” it said were part of the program’s “irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humor” which had spared few nationalities.
"Ofcom considered that the majority of the audience would be familiar with the presenters' approach to mocking, playground-style humor, and would have considered that applying that approach to national stereotypes was in keeping with the program’s usual content and the presenters' typical style,” the regulator said.
"Humor can frequently cause offense. However, Ofcom considers that to restrict humor only to material which does not cause offence would be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of expression."
The exchange that prompted a Mexican outcry came in a program aired last year when co-hosts Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson joked that a Mexican sports car would have the same characteristics as Mexican people. They went on to describe Mexican food as "like sick with cheese on it" and "re-fried sick,” prompting an official complaint from the Mexican Ambassador.
BBC director general Mark Thompson wrote a personal letter of apology to the Embassy, saying the popular show had intended no “vindictiveness.”