London : The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said Friday it had apologised to the Mexican ambassador to Britain after Mexicans were stereotyped as “lazy” on a flagship motoring programme.
However, the BBC, while regretting that the remarks had “caused offence,” defended their content by saying that national stereotyping was part of British humour.
The comments may have been “rude and mischievous” but there was no “vindictiveness behind them”, said BBC. However, it was “sorry” if they caused offence.
In Sunday’s Top Gear motoring programme, watched by millions, presenters joked that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics.
They were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat”.
The show’s principal host, Jeremy Clarkson, predicted that the BBC would not receive any complaints because “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this (snores). They won’t complain, it’s fine”.
Co-presenter James May, described Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it”.
Mexican ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza was not amused.
“The presenters of the programme resorted to outrageous, vulgar, and inexcusable insults to stir bigoted feelings against the Mexican people, their culture as well as their official representative in the UK,” he wrote.
“Although casual banter is an essential component of the programme’s appeal, humour never justifies xenophobia. It is not a matter of taste but of basic principles,” added the envoy.
But the BBC replied that its own comedians often made jokes about about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and “we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganized and over dramatic, the French being arrogant and the Germans being over-organized.
“Whilst it may appear offensive to those who have not watched the programme or who are unfamiliar with its humour, the executive producer has made it clear to the ambassador that that was absolutely not the show’s intention.”
Reports said the remarks had caused outrage in Mexico where hundreds contacted the BBC in protest.