Top Gear host in hot water over "silly" remarks

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 9:58 AM
Top Gear host in hot water over "silly" remarks

By Philip Baillie

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized comments made by "Top Gear" television show presenter Jeremy Clarkson after he said the country's striking public sector strikers be "shot in front of their families."

Clarkson, whose mocking personality helped make the Top Gear automobile show a popular broadcast around the world, was speaking on Wednesday as state workers like nurses, teachers and civil servants were staging a 24-hour strike against government plans to make them pay more and work longer for their pensions.

"I'd have them all shot," the 51-year-old said on the BBC's prime-time One Show.

"I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families," he added. "I mean how dare they go on strike when they have got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"

A BBC spokesman noted the One Show had apologized at the end of the show to viewers who may have been offended.

Cameron who is a friend of the presenter, said on the ITV's Good Morning program the comments were a "silly thing to say."

"I'm sure he didn't mean it," he added.

Unison, the public service trade union, said it would consider taking legal action against the presenter over his "appalling" comments.

Dave Prentis UNISON General Secretary said: "Clarkson's comments on the One Show were totally outrageous, and they cannot be tolerated.

"We are seeking urgent legal advice about what further action we can take against him and the BBC, and whether or not his comments should be referred to the police.

"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."

Unions estimated more than 2 million public sector workers in the UK went on strike over changes to their pensions on Wednesday, though polls showed not all Britons supported them.

Critics of the strike say state pensions compare very favorably with those in the private sector and that public workers should share the pain of belt-tightening measures.

The BBC declined to comment on Unison's statement.

Clarkson is known for his outspokenness. He aroused public anger over comments about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's partial blindness and over an article in which he said the Welsh language should be abolished.

In February, he was at the centre of a diplomatic row after making offensive remarks about Mexico, suggesting the country didn't have an Olympic team, "because anyone who can run jump or swim is already across the (U.S.) border."

(Editing by Steve Addison)