LONDON – The BBC has apologized to Mexico's ambassador for remarks on its "Top Gear" program that described Mexicans as lazy and oafish.
The BBC wrote to Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza on Thursday, saying that national stereotyping is part of British humor — and that the presenters did not intend to be vindictive.
"Our own comedians make jokes 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," the statement read. "We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centered on national stereotyping are a part of 'Top Gear's' humor."
The remarks came in a segment in which presenter Richard Hammond claimed that cars imitate national characteristics.
"Mexican cars are just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent, oaf with a mustache leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat," he said. Presenter James May mocked Mexican food, while Jeremy Clarkson suggested the ambassador would be too busy sleeping to register his outrage.
The ambassador in turn, wrote to the BBC earlier this week, complaining about the "bigotry and ignorance," of the presenters.
The BBC received thousands of other complaints about the anti-Mexican comments, particularly from people outside of Britain.
Hammond, Clarkson and May are known for frequent and irreverent quips The BBC has fielded complaints in the past after Clarkson made a joke linking truck drivers with prostitute murders and described former Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a "one-eyed Scottish idiot."
The show's mix of outlandish jokes and auto worship has made "Top Gear" a British institution, broadcast in more than 100 countries. More than 6 million viewers saw the episode in question.