David Cameron has backed Jeremy Clarkson as it was claimed the suspended Top Gear host was involved in a “scuffle” with a BBC producer because he was offered a cold meat platter instead of a steak.
Cameron praised Clarkson as a "huge talent" and told BBC Midlands Today he hoped the situation could be resolved so his children would not be left "heartbroken".
Clarkson is alleged to have punched Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon during what the corporation described in an official statement as a "fracas".
"I don't know exactly what happened. He is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent,” Mr Cameron said.
"I see that he said he regrets some of what happened. All I would say - because he is a talent and he does amuse and entertain so many people, including my children who'll be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air - I hope this can be sorted out because it is a great programme and he is a great talent."
The Prime Minister refused to be drawn in on whether he thought the BBC was wrong to have suspended the controversial host, saying only: "I don't know what happened. Every organisation has to be able to be free to manage its talent and to say to people, 'you can do this', or 'you can't do that', so I don't want to interfere in the running of the BBC."
He added: "The Prime Minister has many responsibilities, sadly securing the future of Top Gear isn't one of them."
Jeremy Clarkson's Top 25 Most Obnoxious Lines
Jeremy Clarkson's Top 25 Most Obnoxious Lines
1/24 "Short people. When you've finished using a car, put the f**king seat back, so humans can use it afterwards," he posted on Twitter. Offensively.
2/24 "Honestly, the burka doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red G-string and stockings."
3/24 Driving a Jaguar round a toilet in India: "This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots."
4/24 "The only person who looked good in a 4-seated convertible was Adolf Hitler."
5/24 As a Thai man walked over a bridge he had built during a Top Gear challenge: "That is a proud moment - but there’s a slope on it."
Jeremy Clarkson is involved in further controversy over a second set of number plates found in the vehicle he was driving in Argentina
6/24 On the Renault Clio V6 handling bends: "In typical French fashion it just gives up! A bit like the French did with the Germans."
7/24 "I'm thinking. If you had gone to the trouble of making a chemical bomb, why would you detonate it on a coach from Preston?"
8/24 On public sector workers in 2011: “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”
9/24 "I don't understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?"
10/24 "The only reason the Arabs and Jews have managed to keep their nasty little war going for 50 years is because it never bloody rains there. If the post-war powers had put Israel in Manchester, there'd have been no bloodshed."
11/24 "If all the creatures on earth were the same size, it's said a lobster would have the smallest brain. But then someone invented Wayne Rooney."
12/24 On the invention of the segway: "They're made in America, of course, so fat Yanks can go to the fridge without expending any energy."
13/24 "Supercars are supposed to run over Arthur Scargill and then run over him again for good measure. They are designed to melt ice caps, kill the poor, poison the water table, destroy the ozone layer, decimate indigenous wildlife, recapture the Falkland Islands and turn the entire third world into a huge uninhabitable desert, all that before they nicked all the oil in the world."
14/24 "I’m sorry, but having an Aston Martin DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. If you’ve got even half a scrotum it’s not going to happen."
15/24 On a caravaning holiday: “You aren’t allowed to have a party, you aren’t allowed to have music, you aren’t allowed to play ball games, you aren’t allowed to have a camp fire, you have to park within two feet of a post, you have to keep quiet, you have to be in bed by eleven. This is not a holiday, it’s a concentration camp!”
16/24 "Britain’s nuclear submarines have been deemed unsafe… probably because they don’t have wheel-chair access."
17/24 “If we are being honest HIV is a pathetic virus, it can only live in the air for 6 seconds and it does what ebola does to you in 10 days in 10 years.”
18/24 On the Lotus Elise: “This car is more fun than the entire french air force crashing into a firework factory.”
19/24 On actress Sarah Jessica Parker: “People think ‘oh she must be pretty’. She isn’t – she looks like a boiled horse."
20/24 On the BMW Z3: "And if you are clinically insane, by which I mean you wake up in the morning and think you are an onion, here’s your car."
21/24 On the Ferrari 430 Scuderia: “It’s like God having really unusual sex… it should come with toilet roll.”
22/24 "The problem is that television executives have got it into their heads that if one presenter on a show is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy, the other must be a black Muslim lesbian."
23/24 "If you're thinking of coming to America, this is what it's like: you've got your Comfort Inn, you've got your Best Western, and you've got your Red Lobster where you eat. Everybody's very fat, everybody's very stupid and everybody's very rude - it's not a holiday programme, it's the truth."
24/24 On the N-word row: "I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked."
A screengrab from Jeremy Clarkson's video apology
An onlooker at the alleged ‘fracas’ told The Mirror Clarkson was angered when he returned to the Simonstone Hall Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales after filming and was informed he could not have the steak he wanted because the chef had gone home. Instead, soup and a cold meat platter was reportedly available.
The unnamed witness claims Clarkson launched into a furious tirade using “every bad word you could think of”.
“When they arrived just after 10pm Clarkson got angry. It was more like a scuffle. But he did swear using every bad word you could think of.
“The producer stood there looking quiet and embarrassed. He was being blamed for not arranging hot food.
“The general manager ended up cooking himself for the three presenters.”
The witness said they all left the next day and Clarkson apologised.
Another local claimed Clarkson “didn’t like the idea of sandwiches and demanded the juicy steak”.
The Sun quoted a source described as close to the star denying that he had punched anyone.
Clarkson was reportedly served the £21.95 steak in a private dining room. There appeared to be little sign of any disruption from the night before in the visitors’ book, where a BBC crew member wrote the next day: “A wonderful, friendly and extremely accommodating stay. Superstars the lot of you. Thank you so much.”
A manager at the hotel confirmed to The Independent that Clarkson and the team had stayed at the hotel, but declined to comment any further.
The Mirror quoted Clarkson, when asked if he was concerned about losing his position at the BBC, as saying: "Well it's coming, isn't it? Honestly, it's very soon. Let's just let sleeping dogs lie for the moment."
On Wednesday, the 54-year-old joked about the furore as he left his flat in Kensington amid a media scrum.
He said: "I've been suspended haven't I? I'm just off to the job centre. At least I'm going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight." He was later photographed at the Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's game against Paris St-Germain last night.
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.
It was reported that a BBC disciplinary panel has already been convened to decide his fate.
Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who conducted the investigation into Newsnight's false expose of Lord McAlpine, is to chair the panel, the Radio Times said, with witnesses expected to be called by the end of the week.
A formal disciplinary letter summoning the presenter to appear at the hearing is expected to be posted today.
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".
Meanwhile, a petition to re-instate Clarkson has garnered over 660,000 supporters.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content