Top Gear/Grand Tour host Jeremy Clarkson's most cancellable comments

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Public outrage doesn't seem to stop Clarkson. Photo / Getty Images

Public outrage doesn't seem to stop Clarkson. Photo / Getty Images

He’s done it again. Jeremy Clarkson made headlines back in December for a column about the Duchess of Sussex in which he said he hated Meghan Markle “on a cellular level” and wanted to see her publicly shamed and smeared in excrement. He was met with widespread outrage.

Long-time foes Piers Morgan (left) and Jeremy Clarkson.

But it’s definitely not the first time he has courted controversy. Over a 34-year career on TV he has peddled more insults than there are episodes of Top Gear and even resorted to a punch-up on more than one occasion. And yet, with each offensive remark he seemed to bounce back stronger – until now. Here, we recall eight previous incidents that had the potential to curtail his career.

1. The Piers Morgan punch

In a fracas at the British Press Awards in 2004, Clarkson punched Piers Morgan. It was the culmination of a feud between the pair that began when a photograph of Clarkson with another woman was published in the Daily Mirror while Morgan was editor.

Clarkson reflected on the incident in his Sunday Times column last April and wrote: “[He] said something unkind about my wife. So, even though I was calm and sober, having just come from a recording of Call My Bluff, I hit him. And immediately a gang of portly hacks gathered round, chanting ‘Finish it’.”

At the time, Clarkson was married to Frances Cain, with whom he has three children. They divorced in 2014. Morgan was left with a scar on his forehead from Clarkson’s right hook but responded by saying: “I’ve frankly taken worse batterings from my 3-year-old son.”

2. The ‘special needs’ joke

Clarkson faced criticism for a joke about a car having “special needs” on a 2010 episode of Top Gear. He said the Ferrari F430 Speciale was “a bit wrong... that smiling front end... it looked like a simpleton... [it] should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs”.

The offending Ferrari... at least according to Clarkson.

After Ofcom intervened and said the comments were “capable of causing offence”, the BBC removed them from reruns of the show on BBC Two, and from iPlayer.

3. The One Show

In 2011, the BBC’s One Show presenters Alex Jones and Matt Baker looked shocked when Clarkson said he believed striking workers should be “shot”.

“I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families,” he said of public sector workers taking part in the strikes. The BBC received 31,000 complaints and later issued an apology.

4. The N-word

In an outtake from series 19 of Top Gear, Clarkson was shown mumbling a racial slurwhilst reciting the children’s rhyme, “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”. This was removed in the edited version that aired on the BBC in February 2013.

After the footage was published by the Mirror, he issued an apology video. “I was well aware that in the best-known version of this rhyme there is a racist expression that I was extremely keen to avoid,” he said. “If you listen very carefully with the sound turned right up, it did appear that I’d actually used the word I was trying to obscure… Please be assured I did everything in my power to not use that word, as I’m sitting here begging your forgiveness for the fact my efforts obviously weren’t quite good enough, thank you.”

He later wrote in his Sun column: “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked.”

5. The other race rows

Ofcom found that Clarkson had deliberately used an “offensive racial term” that breached broadcasting rules during Top Gear filming.

In trouble in Burma with co-hosts Hammond (left) and May (right), but not in over his head.

In the Burma special, which aired in March 2014, he used the word “slope” – a derogatory term for Asian people – as an Asian man crossed a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand. The BBC also had to apologise for comments the Top Gear presenters made about Mexican people in 2011.

6. The rant against Liverpool

Sunday Times column in 2015 about the North-South divide in Britain left Clarkson in hot water. “People up there earn less, die more quickly, have fewer jobs and live in houses that are worth the square root of sod all,” he wrote.

He then took to Twitter for a foul-mouthed rant against Liverpool Echo journalists, whom he called “the f***tards on the local rag”. Joe Anderson, then mayor of Liverpool, said Clarkson was a “buffoon”.

7. The Top Gear producer punch

In the same year, it was an altercation over a sirloin steak that eventually got Clarkson fired from the BBC. He punched a producer in a hotel in North Yorkshire after being told he could not order a steak and was instead served a cold platter for dinner.

Clarkson launched an “unprovoked physical and verbal attack” at Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, now aged 44, which left him bloodied and requiring hospital treatment. He allegedly called Tymon a “lazy, Irish c***” and had to pay more than £100,000 (NZ$208,000) in damages for racial discrimination and personal injury.

8. The trouble on Clarkson’s Farm

Clarkson’s Farm, which launched on Amazon Prime in 2021, was popular with viewers but less so with locals. Clarkson clashed with his Cotswolds neighbours over plans to develop his Diddly Squat farm to include a restaurant in 2021, which he opened via a “delightful little loophole” in planning law.

Clarkson's Farm has been a huge hit, but offended the locals along the way.

He was accused of flooding the village with traffic and turning the area into a “rural theme park”. Clarkson responded by calling the hordes of fans “a bloody nuisance… you have my absolute sympathy”.

After residents lodged complaints with the council, Clarkson was eventually forced to close the restaurant. He called the “jealous locals” the “red trouser brigade”.

- Abigail Buchanan, Daily Telegraph UK

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