Clarkson in trouble for 'racist' joke

Industry news

London - An Asian actress is threatening to sue the BBC after Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson apparently used a racist term on the show.

If successful, Somi Guha, 36, who has appeared in programmes including The Bill, could cost the corporation up to £1 million (R17.62 million) in punitive damages.

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Popular hosts of the BBC’s Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond are in Cape Town, where they are to present their show live from the
Grand Arena this weekend with 5FM DJ Sasha Martinengo, right.  Jan 27 2010
Photo by Michael Walker

She has written to the BBC demanding an apology after the controversial presenter used the word “slope” – a derogatory term for Asians – in the series finale shown on BBC2 two weeks ago.

Lawyers representing viewer Miss Guha say she is prepared to take the matter to court should the BBC refuse to apologise.

In the offending episode, presenters Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson were tasked with building a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.

Just before they had to drive trucks over the finished bridge, Clarkson said “That is a proud moment, but there’s a slope on it” as a man walked towards him. It was not clear whether he was in fact referring to the slope of the bridge. Hammond replied: “You’re right, it’s definitely higher on that side.”


At the time, viewers used Twitter to brand Clarkson “not big, not clever, not funny” and described it as “a gag too far.” The BBC last night said that it had received ten complaints over the incident.

Miss Guha’s lawyers, Equal Justice, who previously represented a Mexican student who accused Clarkson and Hammond of making bigoted comments about her countrymen in a 2011 episode of Top Gear, claim Clarkson’s latest comment amounts to unlawful discrimination by a public body.

Miss Guha, who also appeared in 2006 sci-fi movie Children of Men with Michael Caine, said: “Casual racism in the media by established BBC stalwarts is constantly brushed aside. Discrimination within the industry is accepted. Racial profiling of roles is accepted and expected.

“I find it offensive that Jeremy Clarkson refers to people of different races in pejorative terms.

“Jeremy Clarkson has made derogatory comments about Mexicans. Now he bullies an Asian person. It has to stop.” If Miss Guha does not receive an apology she says she will approach broadcasting regulator Ofcom, before taking legal action under the Equality Act.

In a letter to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten on Miss Guha’s behalf, Equal Justice wrote of Clarkson: “He and the show must be censured to ensure that another race or nation is not targeted.

“It was the BBC’s failure to effectively sanction him about the racism against Mexican people that allows him to have the confidence to now attack people of Asian descent. He believes himself to be unaccountable. It is clear gross misconduct on his part and would be in any modern British workplace.

“Please process this complaint as a matter of urgency and give due consideration to not re-commissioning Top Gear for another series until these matters are addressed.” The BBC did not comment on the matter yesterday.

In a 2011 episode of Top Gear Hammond branded Mexicans “lazy, feckless and flatulent” while Clarkson said the country’s UK ambassador would not complain because he would be snoring in front of his TV.

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