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TV & Radio

Jeremy Clarkson's 'execute strikers' outburst sparks 21,000 complaints


Jeremy Clarkson's TV outburst in which he said striking workers "should be shot" has led to more than 21,000 complaints to the BBC.

The Top Gear host - who made his comments during BBC1's The One Show on Wednesday - has since apologised, together with the BBC.

The incident led to condemnation by union leaders and politicians, with Prime Minister David Cameron branding the presenter's comments "silly".

Clarkson said his comments were not meant to have been taken seriously, as he made his apology yesterday. But in an interview with The Sun today he appeared to be taking the matter less than seriously when he also apologised to sparrows, after saying he did not like them during the same interview.

The BBC said today that the number of complaints about his remarks had reached 21,335 by this morning.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Clarkson said: "I didn't for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously - as I believe is clear if they're seen in context.

"If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologise for it alongside them."

The BBC said the item "wasn't perfectly judged".

Clarkson's gaffe came as he appeared on TV on the evening of Britain's biggest public sector strikes for 30 years.

Speaking about the strikers, he said: "I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.

"I mean, how dare they go on strike when they've got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"

Despite the apology, Clarkson told The Sun today that "there isn't a case to answer" in the context of the full interview.

He added: "It's a knee-jerk reaction to something where you're only getting part of the story".

Labour leader Ed Miliband was among those who took a dim view of the words he chose on live TV, calling the comments "absolutely disgraceful and disgusting".

He said: "He obviously does not understand the lives of the people who were going out on strike yesterday."

Mr Cameron, a personal friend of Clarkson, said: "It was obviously a silly thing to say."

The Unison union had called on the corporation to sack the presenter over the "appalling" comments.

General secretary Dave Prentis had said: "Such disgusting statements have no place on our TV screens.

"Whilst he is driving round in fast cars for a living, public sector workers are busy holding our society together - they save others' lives on a daily basis, they care for the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly."

Clarkson's motor mouth has regularly landed him in hot water.

Earlier this year the BBC apologised about an item on Top Gear which led to the Mexican ambassador complaining about the "outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults" made about Mexicans by Clarkson and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond.

The BBC's editorial complaints unit upheld criticisms of the show and ruled that it reinforced stereotypes.

In February 2009, Clarkson famously called then-prime minister Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" and in November the previous year, the BBC received almost 2,000 complaints when he joked about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.