BBC defends "Top Gear" jokes about Mexico

Fri Feb 4, 2011 7:58am EST
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By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC apologized to Mexico's London ambassador on Friday after presenters on the popular motoring show "Top Gear" said he would be too sleepy to protest as they described Mexicans as lazy and feckless.

But it defended the original remarks, saying jokes centered on national stereotypes were part of the humor both of the show and of Britain in general.

The publicly funded broadcaster said the show's executive producer had written to Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora and apologized for the comments made about him.

The diplomat had said he was infuriated by "offensive and xenophobic" remarks made by hosts Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May during Sunday's edition of the cult show, which has been sold to television channels around the world.

The BBC said it was sorry if the presenters' comments had offended some people, but defended the comic use of a stereotype as a "robust part" of British humor.

It said its guidelines allowed comedy based on national stereotypes in shows like Top Gear where the audience would be expecting it.

"When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments," the BBC said in a statement.

"Whilst it may appear offensive to those who have not watched the program or who are unfamiliar with its humor, the executive producer has made it clear to the ambassador that that was absolutely not the show's intention," it added.   Continued...

<p>One of the hosts of "Top Gear," Richard Hammond, poses in Cannes, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>