BBC Backpedals Over Controversial Remarks About Mexicans on 'Top Gear'

The BBC's popular car show, Top Gear, is stuck in neutral after controversial comments by its hosts led to condemnation by the Mexican ambassador to the United Kingdom and forced the BBC to issue an apology.

Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond joked about a Mexican sports car, the Mastretta MXT, and used stereotypes to disparage the quality of the car.

Hammond remarked that cars reflect the national characteristics of the country they are made in. "Why would you want a Mexican car? A Mexican car is just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle known as a coat," he said.

May said that Mexicans can not make food, stating that everything is "like sick with cheese on it."

"Refried sick," Hammond added.

After a short aside about the cost of the sports car, Hammond joked, "Just imagine waking up and remembering that you're Mexican."

Clarkson said, "It would be brilliant because then you could just go back to sleep again."

The video ends with Clarkson saying that the show won't get any complaints about their bit because in the Mexican embassy the ambassador is snoring and asleep with the remote control in his hand.

But it appears that he was wrong about that.

Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza wrote to the BBC to complain about the series of Mexican stereotypes. Izaca's letter read in part:

"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 United Kingdom.

These offensive, xenophobic and humiliating remarks only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate prejudice against Mexico and its people.”

Icaza called on the show's hosts to apologize for their comments.

The BBC apologized on Thursday. The statement read, in part:

“The Executive Producer for Top Gear has written to the Mexican Ambassador and apologised for the comments made about him during the show. On the broader issue of comments about Mexicans as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar ....

Jokes centred on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humour, and indeed a robust part of our national humour .... When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments." The statement mentioned that that Top Gear had previously targeted Italians and Germans.

In fact, in the controversial video, Hammond refers to German cars as "well built and ruthlessly efficient" and says that Italian cars are "a bit flamboyant and quick." But it was the Mexican car that was the target of the less than flattering stereotypes.

According to The Guardian, a Mexican woman who watched the show is suing the BBC over the comments. She previously sued over comments made on the reality show Big Brother.

The BBC pulled the video from Youtube, but the full video can be seen here.

Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at 

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