BBC chief still a Clarkson fan, but says fracas claims ‘serious’

BBC director-general Tony Hall says he is still “a fan” of suspended Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, but said allegations of a fracas with one of the show’s producers were “serious”.

BBC chief still a Clarkson fan, but says fracas claims ‘serious’

Clarkson himself laughed off his latest controversy, telling reporters he was “just off to the job centre” after he was suspended following the row with producer Oisin Tymon.

Speaking outside his London home, he joked: “I’ve been suspended haven’t I? I’m just off to the job centre.”

The Top Gear presenter left his flat in Kensington amongst a media scrum before jumping in to a car and being driven away.

In reply to questions, he said: “I’ve been suspended,” adding: “At least I’m going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight.”

Asked if his suspension was over a row about food, he said “no, no, no” but said “yes” when asked if he had any regrets about what had happened.

More then 450,000 fans have signed an online petition demanding Clarkson be reinstated.

Speaking to reporters after an appearance at the European Scrutiny Committee, the director-general said: “We have got an investigation going on.

“The most important thing in anything like this is to gather the facts. We do not have the facts at the moment.”

He added: “I am a fan of Jeremy Clarkson but this is a serious thing that is alleged to have taken place.”

Asked if he supported Clarkson, co-host James May said: “In many ways no, I have saidmany times before the man is a knob, but I quite like him. It’s all getting a bit ridiculous.”

Asked what he could remember about the row, May said: “Not very much, I was blind drunk.”

A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client “intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete”.

All three of the show’s hosts were understood to be days away from signing new contracts that would have kept them at the wheel of the show for another three years when Clarkson was suspended.

The BBC owns the rights to the Top Gear brand, and includes the show, DVD rights and live shows, raising the prospect of Top Gear continuing on the BBC while Clarkson takes a similar show to one of its rivals.

Clarkson’s first public response to his suspension was a tweet issuing a mock apology to Ed Miliband, whose wife Justine gave an interview to the BBC which was broadcast yesterday. “Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your ‘I’m a human’ piece down the news agenda.”

Clarkson retweeted a message from a viewer which read: “How can BBC not show the remaining episodes of Top Gear, can’t this be resolved without making the fans suffer?”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation. No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”

The presenter’s daughter Em Clarkson tweeted: “Oh God, BBC please take him back. He’s started cooking.”

Sunday’s episode was set to feature Clarkson with co-hosts getting to grips with classic cars.

They were set to take to the road and end up at a classic track day, while Gary Lineker was due to be the “star in a reasonably priced car”.

FOOT IN MOUTH

Some of the controversies that have hit Top Gear:

2003: Jeremy Clarkson drives a pick-up into a horse chestnut tree in a car park in Somerset, to test the strength of a Toyota. The BBC apologised to the parish council.

2008: Clarkson makes a joke during an episode about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes, which attracts more than 1,000 complaints to the BBC.

2010: Jokes made during the show about Mexicans, which included them being branded “lazy”, “feckless” and “flatulent”, spark controversy and prompt an apology from the BBC to the Mexican ambassador.

2011: During an 90-minute India special, a car fitted with a toilet in the boot is described by Clarkson as “perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots”.

2012: Clarkson is found to have breached BBC guidelines by comparing a Japanese car to people with growths on their faces.

2014: Clarkson was embroiled in controversy when It was claimed Clarkson used the N-word while reciting the nursery rhyme ‘Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe’ during filming.

2014: Top Gear is ruled to have breached broadcasting rules after Clarkson used a derogatory word to describe an Asian man.

2014: Top Gear crew is forced to flee Argentina after trouble erupted when it emerged they were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some suggested could refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982.

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