MORE than 350,000 people had signed an online petition last night calling for Jeremy Clarkson to be reinstated as presenter of Top Gear.
Clarkson laughed off his latest controversy yesterday, telling reporters he was “just off to the jobcentre” after the BBC suspended him following “a fracas” with producer Oisin Tymon.
Speaking outside his London home, he joked: “I’ve been suspended, haven’t I? I’m just off to the job centre.” The Top Gear star left his flat in Kensington amongst a media scrum before jumping into a car and being driven away.
In reply to questions he said “I’ve been suspended”, adding: “At least I’m going to be able to get to the Chelsea match.”
Asked if his suspension was over a row about food he said “no, no, no” but said “yes” when asked if he had any regrets.
He did not answer when asked if he was going to be sacked or resign from Top Gear.
Fellow presenter James May defended his co-star over the “dust-up”. Mr May confirmed the row was sparked by catering arrangements for the show, but said he was not there when it happened.
He said: “I think he’s been involved in a bit of a dust-up and I don’t think it’s that serious.”
A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client “intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete”.
Perry McCarthy, who was the show’s anonymous driver Stig for several years, said there had been a “complete over-reaction” by people “looking to be offended”.
The BBC is investigating the allegations against Clarkson, but he could walk away when his contract runs out at the end of the month.
All three of the show’s hosts were understood to be days away from signing new contracts that would have kept them at the show for another three years. The BBC owns the rights to Top Gear, which is valued at £50 million and includes the show, DVD rights and live shows, raising the prospect of Top Gear continuing on the BBC while Clarkson takes a similar show to one of its rivals.
Two episodes of this series have been postponed and the future of the third and final episode is unclear after the bust-up which took place after filming in Newcastle.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “It does not appear to have been reported to us and we are not aware of any incident.”
Clarkson’s first public response to his suspension was a tweet issuing a mock apology to Ed Miliband, whose wife Justine gave an interview to the BBC broadcast on Tuesday.
He said: “Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your ‘I’m a human’ piece down the news agenda.”
Chris Evans, one of the names touted as a potential replacement for Clarkson if he should go, has ruled himself out of the running.
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