BBC, 'Top Gear' Host Under Fire Over Alleged Racial Slur

4:59 AM PST 05/05/2014 by Georg Szalai
BBC
The "Top Gear" hosts, with Jeremy Clarkson in the middle.

As unaired footage leads to calls for his firing, Jeremy Clarkson apologizes, the BBC reprimands him and a law firm wants to contact President Obama to ask if the show should continue airing in the U.S.

LONDON -- U.K. public broadcaster BBC and Jeremy Clarkson, the host of its popular motoring show Top Gear, are under fire over a racial slur allegedly used by the host. 

The Guardian said during a shoot for an episode of Top Gear, which in the U.S. airs on BBC America, that Clarkson had to choose between two cars and recited the nursery rhyme "eenymeenyminymoe" before apparently mumbling the N-word in the second line of the rhyme, which in a commonly used modern version uses the word "tiger." U.K. tabloid the Daily Mirror obtained and posted the unaired video late last week. 

The Guardian also reported that a British law firm is planning to write President Barack Obama this week to ask him to consider pushing for an end to broadcasts of the BBC hit car show in the U.S. Meanwhile, critics called on the BBC to fire Clarkson, but the broadcaster seems to have reprimanded the host instead. 

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The Guardian reported that a law firm called Equal Justice would contact the White House and ambassador of the more than 200 countries where the show airs to ask if the show should be allowed to continue airing.

It quoted Equal Justice director Lawrence Davies as saying the firm would ask Obama and the ambassadors "to consider the evidence and then to decide if this racist show should be broadcast in their country in the future."

Clarkson on Twitter said he hadn't meant to use any offensive language and had tried to mumble the offensive part of the children's rhyme. "Please be assured I did everything in my power to not use that word, as I'm sitting here begging your forgiveness for the fact my efforts obviously weren't quite good enough," he said.

The BBC hasn't commented much beyond confirming that it has discussed the issue with Clarkson. "We have left him in no doubt about how seriously we view this," it said in a statement. The next season of Top Gear is scheduled to begin production soon.

Equal Justice previously also complained about Top Gear when Clarkson used the word "slope" as a Thai man crossed a bridge in an episode that was shot in Burma.

The Guardian said that Top Gear producer Andy Wilman at the time said: "When we used the word "slope" in the recent Top Gear Burma special, it was a light-hearted wordplay joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it. We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word "slope" is considered by some to be offensive. And although it might not be widely recognized in the U.K., we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the U.S."

Here is the video that has caused the latest controversy:

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

 

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