BBC defends "Top Gear" jokes about Mexico

LONDON Fri Feb 4, 2011 11:49am EST

British presenter Richard Hammond poses at the annual MIPCOM television programme market in Cannes, southeastern France, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

British presenter Richard Hammond poses at the annual MIPCOM television programme market in Cannes, southeastern France, October 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

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LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC apologized to Mexico's London ambassador on Friday after presenters on the popular motoring show "Top Gear" said he would be too sleepy to protest as they described Mexicans as lazy and feckless.

But it defended the original remarks, saying jokes centered on national stereotypes were part of the humor both of the show and of Britain in general.

The publicly funded broadcaster said the show's executive producer had written to Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora and apologized for the comments made about him.

The diplomat had said he was infuriated by "offensive and xenophobic" remarks made by hosts Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May during Sunday's edition of the cult show, which has been sold to television channels around the world.

The BBC said it was sorry if the presenters' comments had offended some people, but defended the comic use of a stereotype as a "robust part" of British humor.

It said its guidelines allowed comedy based on national stereotypes in shows like Top Gear where the audience would be expecting it.

"When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments," the BBC said in a statement.

"Whilst it may appear offensive to those who have not watched the program or who are unfamiliar with its humor, the executive producer has made it clear to the ambassador that that was absolutely not the show's intention," it added.

Top Gear presenter Hammond had asked why anyone would buy a Mexican car during a discussion of a Mexican sports model, the Mastretta.

"Cars reflect national characteristics don't they?," he said. "Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat."

The trio then described Mexican food as "refried sick" before suggesting Mexicans spent all day asleep.

"That's why we won't get any complaints about this because at the Mexican embassy the ambassador's going to be sitting there with a remote control like this," said Clarkson, pretending to slump in a chair, snoring.

Top Gear is well-known for its edgy banter and its hosts are no strangers to controversy. Hundreds of viewers complained in 2008 about a joke made by Clarkson about murdering prostitutes.

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Comments (14)
RMRCal wrote:
So that’s o.k. in the U.K. huh? Not in the U.S.

Feb 04, 2011 1:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
LeilaR wrote:
Sure it’s ok in the UK. They’re not so tightwound as we are in the US. Anything that can be viewed as potentially insulting isn’t allowed. But the BBC is a public company, just like the PBS is here. So they’re not under the same restrictions as networks that rely on advertising revenue.

It’s incredibly refreshing to have a show like Top Gear be uninhibited like that. If you don’t like it or get the humor, then don’t watch. There are plenty of others that enjoy it immensely. Jeremy Clarkson has been with that show for decades insulting people left and right. You should see an episode from the ’80’s where he’s commenting on a cars color and how Stevie Wonder wouldn’t even like it.

The UK is a different country. Lay off it. They do things differently there than we do here. It does you no good to compare them to us in how things are done. Everyone does things differently. How boring of a world would it be if it were all the same?

Feb 04, 2011 3:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RMRCal wrote:
And Brittish cars have ugly grills? (or grilles to you).

Feb 04, 2011 6:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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