‘I’m sorry’: Jeremy Clarkson apologises after 'shoot them’ rant sparks 4,700 complaints
Published 01/12/2011 | 17:16
JEREMY Clarkson, the Top Gear, presenter has apologised for saying striking public sector workers should be executed in front of their families.
The UK television presenter and newspaper columnist launched an attack on striking workers on the corporation's The One Show suggesting they should be shot for taking industrial action.
Unison, Britain's largest public sector trade union, described the comments as "appalling" and said it was taking urgent legal advice over Clarkson's behaviour.
His language was also criticised as 'silly' by Prime Minister David Cameron and 'disgusing' by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.
Last night Clarkson apologised for comments.
His apology came after Mr Cameron, who is a friend of Clarkson's, told This Morning that it was: "obviously a silly thing to say and I’m sure he didn’t mean that."
Downing Street also issued a tongue-in-cheek statement tonight. "Execution is not government policy and we have no plans to make it government policy," said a spokesman.
Clarkson's tirade on the BBC One programme sparked instant condemnation and admiration from viewers posting messages on Twitter.
At one point, the phrase “Jeremy Clarkson” was the highest “trending” topic on the micro-blogging site and the fourth most popular issue worldwide.
Others applauded his controversial statements, saying they were clearly said a joke. One blogger on the New Statesman site suggested: "The literal minded response of most liberals only panders to Clarkson's depiction of the left as sour, humourless and boring."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he had not heard the comments but added that they were "absolutely disgraceful and disgusting".
He said: "Jeremy Clarkson should apologise for those comments. He obviously does not understand the lives of the people who were going out on strike yesterday."
Asked during his interview, what he would do with strikers, Clarkson, 51, replied: "I would have them all shot".
He added: "I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.
"I mean how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed, while the rest of us have to work for a living."
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, 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.
"Public sector workers and their families are utterly shocked by Jeremy Clarkson's revolting comments. We know that many other licence fee-payers share our concerns about his outrageous views.
"The One Show is broadcast at a time when children are watching - they could have been scared and upset by his aggressive statements. An apology is not enough - we are calling on the BBC to sack Jeremy Clarkson immediately. Such disgusting statements have no place on our TV screens.
"Jeremy Clarkson clearly needs a reminder of just who he is talking about when he calls for public sector workers to be shot in front of their families. 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.
"They wipe bottoms, noses, they help children to learn, and empty bins. They deserve all our thanks - certainly not the unbelievable level of abuse he threw at them."
David Cameron was urged to distance himself from the Clarkson over the rant, in which he also bemoaned being delayed by people throwing themselves in front of trains.
Jon Trickett, Labour's shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "No one wants these strikes but most of today's strikers are mums, not militants.
"Clarkson should apologise and the Prime Minister should make clear he disassociates himself from the distasteful remarks uttered by one of his friends."
Following Clarkson's outburst, the BBC issued a swift on-air apology, saying he sometimes overstepped the mark in his quest for "comic" value. It has received complaints from viewers over his remarks.
While some members of the audience laughed at his execution comment, presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones appeared shocked and were left shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
Later Clarkson added: "'I do sometimes use the train to come to London but it always stops in Reading. It's always because somebody has jumped in front of it and somebody has burst.
"You just think, why have we stopped because we've hit somebody? What's the point of stopping? It won't make them better."
Unison called for the BBC to sack Clarkson.