Photo: Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson
Despite having referred to Mexicans as “lazy, feckless, flatulent [and] overweight,” the BBC2 program Top Gear has been cleared by media regulator Ofcom.
Though Ofcom did say the comments had the potential to be “very offensive,” due to the British show’s regular “irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humour,” they were justified.
The regulator said the show “frequently uses national stereotypes as a comedic trope and that there were few, if any, nationalities that had not at some point been the subject of the presenters’ mockery throughout the history of this long-running programme.”
The offensive comments centered around the presenters’ opinions of Mexico’s launch of a new sports car. The presenters called it “the Tortilla,” then went on to describe Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it” and “re-fried sick.”
The Mexican ambassador in London did send a complaint to the BBC calling the comments “xenophobic” ad “offensive.” Ofcom received 157 direct complaints.
Presenter Jeremy Clarkson went on to say, “That’s why we’re not going to get any complaints about this – ‘cause the Mexican embassy, the ambassador’s going to be sitting there with a remote control like this [slouches in chair and snores]. They won’t complain. It’s fine.”
Ofcom’s Monday ruling stated that the program was merely “light-hearted in tone” and typically included “quirky and humorous banter between the presenters”. Adding, “Ofcom considered that the majority of the audience would be familiar with the presenters’ approach to mocking, playground-style humour, and would have considered that applying that approach to national stereotypes was in keeping with the programme’s usual content and the presenters’ typical style.”
“Humour can frequently cause offence. However, Ofcom considers that to restrict humour only to material which does not cause offence would be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of expression.”
However, five days after the Top Gear comments were made, the BCC did apologize to the Mexican ambassador, saying the comments may have been “rude” and “mischievous,” but that any “vindictiveness” was not intended.