Former BBC Head Says Top Gear Shouldn’t Have Fired Jeremy Clarkson

Though that’s not to say he condones punching people because you didn’t get steak. 

byWill Sabel Courtney|
People photo


The former head of the BBC has gone on record saying that the broadcaster should have tried to keep former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson on in spite of his character flaws, as the embattled presenter brought viewers to the network who otherwise might not have paid attention, according to a recent interview.

Granted, the former British Broadcasting Company exec in question, Mark Thompson, is a bit biased. By his own admission in The Sunday Times Magazine, he considers himself Clarkson's pal.

“Clarkson can be a deeply objectionable individual, and I say that as a friend,” Thompson said, according to an excerpt pulled from the paywall-free online paradise of The Guardian.

"But I would say his pungent, transgressive, slightly out-of-control talent was something the BBC could ill afford to lose," the former exec added. “He spoke to people who didn’t find much else in the BBC.”

Still, he doesn't seem to try and justify Clarkson's attitude or behavior. "I don't think people should punch their colleagues. It's hard to keep them if they do," Thompson said, referring to the 2015 incident in which Clarkson slugged Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon over a lack of steak. The incident proved the catalyst for Clarkson's dismissal from the BBC; co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May resigned in solidarity from the show shortly thereafter, and the trio is currently creating an automotive show called The Grand Tour for Amazon Prime.

Since then, as any reader of The Drive with a pulse likely knows, the British version of Top Gear has floundered under the reign of carrot-haired presenter Chris Evans, who proved about as suitable a replacement for Clarkson as an onion does for a Kit Kat. Evans has since left the program after a single season of sagging ratings; co-host Matt LeBlanc is widely expected to assume the role of lead presenter for the next season.