LONDON, England - The man who is the very face of the BBC's 'Top Gear' motoring show has been suspended by Britain's state television after "a fracas" in which, some reports say, he punched a producer.
That was early today - since then things have changed greatly and mostly in favour of the lanky motoring nut.
The BBC confirmed that one show - due for broadcast on Sunday - has been cancelled but gave few further details. However, it is understood that the remaining three of the season might not be aired either.
Clarkson, now 54, and his show sidekicks James May and Richard Hammond have also apparently been tweeting that a film could be shown instead.
An early statement published on the BBC's website read: "Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation. Nobody else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday and the BBC will be making no further comment at this time."
It must be seriously worrying for the nobs at Television House: How do you mess with a guy and his mates who are not only watched and envied in 214 countries but also attract four-million users to their website every month?
VIDEO: Watch the BBC's take on the story
As the day moved on an online petition urging the BBC to reinstate Clarkson went viral: "We the undersigned petition the BBC to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson. Freedom to fracas," said the online appeal. By Wednesday evening close to 450 000 signatures agreed.
According to AFP, an online counter-petition to sack Clarkson pulled less than 1000 supporters. One signatory, Caryne Pearce, said: "Clarkson has got away with his bigoted rantings for far too long while others have been sacked for less. Why does the BBC let him get away with it?"
Tabloid headline writers saw the funny side of it all. "Strop Gear" was the clever one in the UK's The Star. The Sun, Britain's most popular daily, reported Clarkson as saying: "I'm having a nice cold pint and waiting for this to blow over."
CLARKSON LAWYERS SILENT
A report by BBC News special correspondent Lucy Manning published on the BBC's news website said: "Clarkson was suspended for 'allegedly hitting a producer'. Later reports said he "threw a punch" but did not confirm that it connected during the "fracas", believed to have happened last week but reported to the BBC only on Monday and dealt with on Tuesday (March 10 2015),the website report indicated.
The report added that Clarkson's lawyers had not, at that time, responded to requests for comment.
Read the full story from the BBC.
Clarkson and his team are expected to be in Johannesburg in June for the 2015 Top Gear Live extravaganza. The media agency handling the show told Wheels24:"We have nothing further to add to the BBC’s recent statement and will update on the status of the Top Gear Live tour as soon as we are able."
NOT THE FIRST TIME...
Clarkson has been in many controversial situations on an off the show, one of the most recent involving an allegedly provocative number plate on a car being used in filming in Argentina. It was said to be insulting about the Falklands war between Argentina and Britain.
Others include:July 2014 - A Burma show in which Jeremy Clarkson apparently used a racial word - 'slope' - to describe an Asian man crossing a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.May 2014 - Video leaked to a British tabloid appeared to show Clarkson using another racist term while reciting the chlldren's nursery rhyme 'Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe'. He later apologised, the video was never broadcast, and he later sought forgiveness.January 2012 -India complained about a 90-minute show in which a car with a toilet in its boot was described by Clarkson as "perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots".February 2011 - Clarkson and his co-hosts characterised Mexicans as "lazy" and "feckless".
What do YOU think of Clarkson's behaviour - arrogant, funny, racist, blunt? Tell us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24.
What readers are saying:
Phatzplay: 'Jeremy Clarkson cannot be fired as he makes the show one of the best programmes ever! What is BBC's most viewed show? How much did Top Gear make last year and for the past 20 seasons? Don't get rid of Jezza, get rid of the producer (not fire him, move him to another show) simply because Jeremy, Richard and James are the faces of Top Gear!'
Louis Walters says: 'We are dealing here with a person who enjoys being in the limelight but is not willing to take full responsibility for what such a role entails. If one hungers for celebrity status then one should understand that judgement will be stricter on all aspects of your life and I don’t believe Clarkson understands this. He has abused his position for long enough now. Let’s find an auto industry guru who has a sense of responsibility. I’m sure Clarkson has enough money for retirement now. Let us not shed a tear
Louis Wagner says: 'Jeremy Clarkson is the one beacon for millions who have had it "up to here"/had enough wih the PC epidemic in the UK. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Dismiss the incompetent manager and get on with it, BBC.'
Danie Byleveld: 'Once an individual becomes bigger than the organisation and gets away (with trouble) every time, does it not matter what he does? It's really not healthy and he's a disgrace to the BBC. My son loves Top Gear but the example he (Clarkson) gives is bad - very bad.'
MandyJo: 'In a world filled with talking heads and stuffed shirts his behaviour is a counterbalance to the PC bulldust to which everybody seems to think they must sign up. He's an equal opportunist insulter and I'm prepared to take one on the chin for the number of times he's made me laugh watching others take one on the chin.'
Adele: 'Jeremy is an absolute asset to the show; you either enjoy his sense of humour or you don’t. His sense of humour is fantastic and Top Gear is the only show that I watch on BBC. So, for all those critics out there who have no sense of humour – WATCH SOMETHING ELSE!'
Pieter Page: 'I wanted to reply on the Jeremy issue but see a lot of other likeminded people have already said it all very nicely. Jeremy is Jeremy, we love him as he is, and if you don’t like him don’t watch his shows.
I hope Top Gear tells the BBC to stuff-off and starts to make regular Top Gear movies. That would be great fun. Go Top Gear!'
Henry Benjamin: 'Well, great show, but if u don't nip it and nip him he becomes arrogant and keeps on doing it. Nip him - he's racist, nobody one is irreplaceable.'
Pieter van Zyl: 'This is just a publicity stunt for the show, like all the other incidents he is involved in. Good luck, the show is in any way not as good as the earlier episodes.'
Sam de Jager: 'He is just funny and straight.'
Sipho Jerry Mdaka: 'Describing other races differently to oneself and degrading them because they are not born the same as you is purely under-estimation, and unfortunately that's what is called racism. I fully support the BBC's decision to suspend him; the 122 000 signatures might be in need of his talent but the challenge here is that the talent is characterised by racism.'
Erin Georgiou: 'He may be blunt but it is refreshing - says things like they are, no frills. Let him be.'
Theo Zentgraf: 'Jeremy Clarkson has never been a favourite of mine because he is rather opinionated. However, it is his prerogative to say what he wants and mine to not watch his programmes.
'People are way too sensitive about what others are saying and nowadays there are far too many that are not politically not correct. This is utterly ridiculous. Words at the end mean nothing in terms of who I am and, truthfully, I really do not care what people are saying but rather what they are doing.
'When physical fights break out it is another matter. It is unacceptable from any side but the attacked has to defend himself. Was Clarkson the attacker? In a workplace this is also unacceptable.'
Pieter Buys: 'He's just practising freedom of speech and expression, call a thing a thing. People need to be less emotional to stuff like this and concentrate more on the important issues in life. Jeremy is Jeremy - because of things like this he breaks the ice for people.'
Taraince: 'He is the best, because surely if you're proud of who you are then I see no reason for you to be angry. Call him a white and all is fine but when he calls you Asian or black then its racism? Stop being extremists (loving Top Gear).
Gerhard Borstlap: 'Jeremy Clarkson is getting more and more outspoken and in every episode he is blasphemous. That is why I stopped watching. If he starts getting physical he deserves to be fired.'
Fehnaz Khan: 'I think Jeremy is blunt and may have a touch of arrogance which, in a way, is entertaining and refreshing. He is not scared to share his thoughts. Everybody is entitled to an opinion; don't take everything to heart. Everybody has a choice and if you don’t like him don’t watch him. To survive in this selfish world everybody should have a bit of Clarkson in them.
'As for the “alleged attack”, it is unacceptable, but Clarkson could have been provoked.'
William Thompson: 'Clarkson is brilliant.'
Munirjoosub: 'It's entertainment, just like a stand-up comedian would do, it's a joke, it lasts for the duration of the laugh. People have to ease up and not take things so seriously.'
Linda van Bruggen: 'Clarkson IS Top Gear. His arrogance and Devil-may-care persona contribute to the success of the programme. Take him away and the programme will fade away. Why do you think the other countries’ Top Gear programmes are not that popular? They simply do not have the dynamics of the British Top Gear brought together by the three presenters (of which Clarkson is the one we enjoy the most).'
Odwa Ntlokwana: 'I don't think there's much wrong with what Jeremy does. He uses stereotypes and peoples' different races/cultures etc to promote comedy and humour. Stand-up comedians do the same thing and they don't get this much drama. If Jeremy's jokes and comments offend you... don't watch Top Gear. Simple!
Marius Kretzen: 'One of the main reasons people around the world watch “HIS” show is for the “funny / sarcastic” comments from Clarkson, Hammond and May.
'People take life far too seriously, calm down and live for a change. This is a motoring / comedy show, leave it at that. "Mistakes” can creep in, but that’s not the intention of the show.
'Where is the mighty BBC when it comes to screening the show before it’s aired? No, it takes the change (sharing the profits) and when it backfires (number plates, boot toilet, racial comments) then it becomes a Jeremy Clarkson problem?'
Craigmac: 'His comments are very amusing and should be seen as such. In a world with so much madness his comments should never be taken seriously. People will complain about everything and if we react to all those complaints we'll have very boring TV shows.'