The controversial TV personality and former Daily Mirror editor joined Bradley Walsh’s team for the sports-focused competition and before long, host Holly Willoughby drew attention to the much-publicised incident at the 2004 British Press Awards, dubbed the ‘Rumble in the (tabloid) Jungle’ by MediaGuardian.
Reports at the time claimed an inebriated Clarkson, whose contract with the BBC was not renewed last month after a ‘fracas’ sent producer Oisin Tymon to hospital, “ambled over to the Mirror’s table […] and attacked, swinging a right hook at Morgan”.
“It was actually three punches,” Morgan said on Play to the Whistle. “He permanently scarred me above my temple because he had a ring on, but the good news was he broke his little finger hitting my head because I’m that hard.”
The 50-year-old, questioned for a second time over phone-hacking allegations earlier this week, added that he “compares war wounds” with Clarkson whenever they meet but wasn’t impressed with his fighting skills.
“I took his best three punches and then I said to him, ‘My three-year-old hits me harder than that’, which I thought was a good line,” he said. “The reason I didn’t hit him was because I was at the British Press Awards and I thought I’d be fired. But I was fired three weeks later anyway so I kind of should have hit him.”
Anyone wanting another high-profile bust-up, you might just get one yet. “There’s still time,” Morgan teased, to laughs.
Clarkson’s publicist responded to our request for comment, branding the incident “old news”. “It was a girlie slap,” he said.
In March, Morgan told Clarkson that he should have punched him again instead of a “loyal, hard-working Top Gear producer”.
“You can’t whack a member of your own production team in a drunken, foul-mouthed rage – however cold the food,” he wrote in an open letter published on Mail Online.
“If you’d just whacked ME in the head again, as you did at the British Press Awards in 2004, the nation would have risen as one to applaud you.”
Clarkson’s next move remains unknown, but his Top Gear co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond are not expected to return to the hit motoring show without him, prompting rumours of a group move elsewhere.
Play to the Whistle airs Saturday 25 April at 9.15pm
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