Top Gear Update: BBC Shifts Into Neutral, Lawsuit Reportedly Filed

By Arturo R. García

On Thursday, the BBC issued a response to the calls for an apology from the hosts of Top Gear after the program’s hosts engaged in racist rhetoric about Mexico and its’ people earlier this week.

The gist of the BBC’s statement? “It’s just what they do.” Full transcript under the cut.

After Sunday’s show – which featured Richard Hammond (pictured above left) calling Mexican food “refried sick” and saying, “imagine waking up and remembering you’re Mexican” – the Mexican ambassador to the United Kingdom, Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, wrote to the BBC demanding an apology for the “offensive, xenophobic and humiliating” remarks. (In the segment, Jeremy Clarkson (center) suggested the ambassador would be too lazy to do such a thing.)

As posted on Anglotopia, here’s the BBC’s statement about the incident:

The Executive Producer for Top Gear has written to the Mexican Ambassador and apologised for the comments made about him during the show. On the broader issue of comments about Mexicans as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar.

We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centred on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humour, and indeed a robust part of our national humour. Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganised and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organised. When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments.

This stereotyping humour is in itself a factor in the tolerance which the ambassador states is so prevalent in Britain.

In line with that tradition, stereotype based comedy is allowed within BBC guidelines in programmes where the audience has clear expectations of that being the case, as indeed it is with Top Gear. Whilst it may appear offensive to those who have not watched the programme or who are unfamiliar with its humour, the Executive Producer has made it clear to the Ambassador that that was absolutely not the show’s intention.

So there you go – it’s okay because everybody in Britain does it.

Regardless of intentions, the show is now also facing political pressures from parties closer to home – literally. According to the Daily Mail, six members of the House of Commons have demanded the show apologize, saying, “This level of ignorance is far below anything expected from anyone in the public eye and illustrates a serious lack of judgment by the programme-makers.” They said they would like the show’s hosts to apologize before Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visits Mexico later this month.

The issue might also go to court, if a Mexican student living in London gets her way. The Mail also reported that Iris De La Torre has retained the services of anti-discrimination firm Equal Justice to bring a test case against the show under the 2010 Equality Act, which forbids anyone “providing a service” from engaging in discriminatory behavior. One of the firm’s attorneys, Lawrence Davies, told the Guardian:

These remarks were probably calculated and deliberate to fuel anger and hence boost ratings. The presenters apparently feel that they are fighting a battle against political correctness. However, they are not permitted to use unlawful means to do so and broadcast their racist thoughts. A broadcast is a service and it is unlawful to product racist services.

A BBC spokesperson said that once it received the complaint, it would be handled through “the appropriate channels.”