Jeremy Clarkson has gotten in his fair share of rows and controversies over the years, especially during his time on Top Gear (2002-2015). He’s responsible for changing the entire format of the show, so he should be given some slack, but at some point enough was enough, and he had to go.
Little did BBC know that Amazon would swoop him up (and his co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May), and throw millions of dollars at them to start an Amazon-based car show, The Grand Tour, which quickly became the most watched show on the network.
The Grand Tour isn’t as good as Top Gear, despite having a bigger budget. Maybe the format of the show is stale now, but at one point Top Gear was the most-watched show in the world. Every offensive thing Jeremy Clarkson said (of which there was a lot), was closely scrutinized.
Here are 15 controversial things Jeremy Clarkson has said and done that he'd rather everyone forget about.
15 His Rant About Public Sector Strikes
Jeremy Clarkson got a lot of backlash for this one, to the tune of 31,000 complaints!
In 2011, on BBC’s The One Show, Clarkson essentially joked on air that the public sector workers taking part in the 24-hour strike should be, ahem, "taken out," for lack of better phrasing. The BBC was forced to apologize on Clarkson’s behalf, because apparently a lot of people (including much of the studio audience) didn’t find it as funny as he did to joke about strikers like that.
14 Thai Bridge Controversy
Most of Jeremy Clarkson’s mishaps and misspoken comments came about during his long tenure on Top Gear.
In March 2014, the presenter sparked controversy when he insulted Thai people by referring to them by an alleged derogatory term. As a man walked toward him and Richard Hammond on a Thai bridge, he said, “That is a proud moment—but there’s a ----- on it.” Hammond replied, “You’re right, it’s definitely higher on that side.”
13 Offending Disabled People Multiple Times
Jeremy Clarkson seemed to get off on being derogatory toward disabled people on multiple occasions. In August 2011, he and James May were criticized for parking their electric cars in a disabled parking bay on-screen.
Previously, he had offended people with disabilities by referring to the Ferrari F430 Speciale as “a bit wrong… that smiling front end… it looked like a simpleton… should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs.”
12 His Back-And-Forth With George Michael
Before the legendary pop singer’s untimely death, George Michael and Jeremy Clarkson got into a bit of a row in July 2011.
Michael said some unkind things to Clarkson, after the presenter made a joke about him. Clarkson had said about the Jaguar XKR-S: “It’s very fast and very, very loud. And then in the corners it will get its tail out more readily than George Michael.”
11 Insulting Mexico
Back in February 2011, the BBC apologized to the Mexican ambassador over remarks that Clarkson, May, and Hammond had made on Top Gear. (But they also defended Top Gear, calling “national stereotyping” a part of British humor.)
Hammond had joked in an episode that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics: “Just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep…” Clarkson wrongly predicted they wouldn’t get any complaints because the ambassador would be asleep at the remote at the Mexican embassy.
10 German Mockery
During a Top Gear episode, Clarkson wanted to build a car that was “quintessentially German.” He then suggested turn signals that displayed Hitler salutes.
These statements led to viewers’ complaints to the BBC Board of Governors, but in 2006 the BBC Governors’ Programme Complaints Committee rejected the protests.
9 Top Gear Magazine Comments
Clarkson told Top Gear Magazine in October 2009 that the TV bosses were obsessed with hiring others to balance out white heterosexual men on their shows. “The problem is that… if one presenter on a show is a blond-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy, the other must be a -----. 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.”
8 Offending A Former Prime Minister
Jeremy Clarkson called former UK Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party Gordon Brown a “one-eyed ----- idiot” in February 2009 on the BBC. He was comparing Brown to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a world leader [Rudd] admit we really are in deep ----,” Clarkson said. “He genuinely looked terrified. We have this one-eyed ----- 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.”
7 The Lorry Driver “Joke”
Clarkson offended a huge base of Top Gear watchers when, while driving a lorry in November 2008, he made an inappropriate joke. He said, “What matters to lorry drivers? Murdering -----? Fuel economy?” He also said, “This is a hard job and I’m not just saying this to win favor with lorry drivers: change gear; change gear; check your mirrors; murder a -----.” Media watchdog Ofcom actually cleared Clarkson of wrongdoing, saying the context in which he made the joke was justified.
6 The Cab Story
Jeremy Clarkson gave a long quote in July 2010 on-air during Top Gear that again sparked discomfort among viewers. While commenting on distractions while driving, he talked about long loose garments many women wear when he spotted one in a cab. He said, “Honestly, the ----- doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full ----- crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels, and up it came, red G-string and stockings."
5 Insulting India
Clarkson has quite a rich history of offending India, its people, and just about everything concerning the country. He’s made jokes about Indian clothes, trains, and even the country’s history. While driving a Jaguar around an Indian slum one episode—in which the Jaguar had a toilet fitted in the boot—he made an inappropriate joke.
4 Insulting Romania
During series 14 of Top Gear, Clarkson was driving through the Romanian countryside when he commented on Romania as being “Borat country, with gypsies and Russian playboys.”
Romanian newspapers called his comments “offensive” and “bad publicity for their country.” The Romanian Times also reported that Clarkson had called Romania “gypsy land,” and a group said via The Daily Telegraph, “We are sick of misrepresenting Gypsies, and thanks to Top Gear, have been publicly insulted.”
3 Attacking The BBC Producer
When Jeremy Clarkson was finally sacked for attacking a BBC producer, a petition on Change.org to bring him back became the fastest petition to 1 million votes in the site's history. Still, the firing stuck.
Back in 2016, Clarkson was suspended and then fired for punching Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon after being told there was no hot food available after a day of filming. He was fired for his “unprovoked physical and verbal attack.”
2 Encouraged Drinking And Driving
Jeremy Clarkson has written about his youth when he would encourage friends to drink and drive—which doesn’t give The Grand Tour presenter a good look. He admitted to Express.co.uk that he would organize “grass track bangers” in his past, and would demand participants “drink three pints of beer before being allowed to rejoin the race,” after a pit stop. He added, “A similar idea would, I think, transform Formula One.”
1 Getting Kicked Out Of Argentina
The most intense fracas came in 2014, when the three presenters and a crew of 29 people were forced to evacuate Argentina to escape a mob of angry citizens, after Clarkson had put “H982 FKL” on the plate of his car in a reference to the 1982 Falklands War. Clarkson said, “For once, we did nothing wrong,” but they were still forced to escape in the dead of night.
Clarkson was threatened with three years in jail for the row from the Argentinian courts, and months later it came out that the BBC was aware of the Falklands number plate on the Porsche before they shipped it out!
References: telegraph.co.uk, express.co.uk, theguardian.com, wikipedia.com