Jeremy Clarkson: lights, camera, controversy… a history of on-screen gaffes

After his One Show strike comments - watch videos of some of the Top Gear presenter's most controversial TV moments


Here’s a thought for you: what does it take for a joke to cross the line and become seriously offensive? If there’s one man who ought to know, it’s Jeremy Clarkson, who’s been kicking at the boundaries of taste like a particularly zealous mule for years. Whether you’ve laughed with him or been appalled by him, there’s no denying that Britain’s most prominent petrolhead has managed to offend everyone from environmentalists to politicians, and even the odd country or two for good measure during his broadcasting career.


Indeed, last night’s comments on The One Show about rounding up and executing public sector workers who strike are just the latest jibes from Jezza to land the Top Gear presenter in hot water. 

So lovers of economically built Malaysian cars and historic chestnut trees look away now, because here come some of Clarkson’s most high-profile gaffes and controversies from the archives…

1.\tBack in 2008 Clarkson rubbed viewers up the wrong way by making a few jokes about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes during a truck-driving segment on Top Gear. While the gag wasn’t particularly new, the fact that his comments came while the 2006 Ipswich murders were still fresh in people’s minds was enough to generate over 500 complaints to the BBC and a call for his resignation from Chris Mole MP.

2.\tIt wasn’t what was coming out of Jeremy’s mouth that caused a furore in 2002 – for once, it was what was going in. As part of his series Clarkson Meets the Neighbours, the presenter travelled to France to sample a “delicacy”, an ortolan bunting, a small bird that is overfed before being drowned in Armagnac and eaten whole. Clarkson’s obvious delight in the fact that the dish was illegal proved too much for many viewers, and he received another public ticking off.

3.\tGordon Brown may not go down in history as this country’s greatest Prime Minister, but did he really warrant being called a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” in public by Clarkson? The Royal National Institute for the Blind certainly didn’t think so, and nor did numerous other commentators who accused Clarkson of racism over the incident.

4.\tMore accusations of racism for Jezza, this time from the Malaysian government, who rounded on Clarkson in 2007 when he criticised the Malaysian-built Peroda Kelisa as one of the worst cars in the world and claimed it was built “in jungles by people who wear leaves for shoes”. For good measure, he took a sledgehammer to one of the vehicles on air…

Not content with burning rubber on the Top Gear test track, Clarkson wound up Somerset parish council in 2004 by slamming a Toyota Hilux truck into a 30-year-old chestnut tree as part of a segment for the BBC motoring show. The stunt forced the Beeb to offer a public apology to the council and pay them compensation for the tree.


What did you think of Jeremy Clarkson’s comments last night? Post a comment below and let us know…