Untouchable? Top Gear Exonerated For Racist Comments, What About Tesla?

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Mexico Flag

Mexico Flag

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The popular U.K. motoring entertainment show Top Gear just can’t stay out of the spotlight at the moment. 

Just six days after Californian electric car automaker Tesla filed a legal case against the primetime Sunday night show for libel and malicious falsehood a broadcasting watchdog in the U.K. has exonerated Top Gear for making racist comments aimed at Mexicans. 

With U.K. national broadcasting watchdog Ofcom rejecting the complaints and commenting that the jibes were “justified by the context” we have to wonder if the show’s hosts, Messers Clarkson, May and Hammond, are the equivalent of automotive untouchables.

If that is indeed the case, what does this mean for Tesla, especially since the show seems to be hiding behind a facade of a purely entertainment, not factual, show?

“Feckless, Flatulent”

Video: Jeremy Clarkson wins Special Recognition Award

Video: Jeremy Clarkson wins Special Recognition Award

Earlier this year and nearly 18 months after the show which caused Tesla so much anguishTop Gear’s team of middle-aged, opinionated presenters caused an outcry among Mexican viewers when they criticized the nation, its foods and its customs. 

“Why would you want a Mexican car?” jibed presenter Richard Hammond durning a studio segment involving all three presenters. “Mexican cars are just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a mustache, leaning against a fence, asleep, looking like a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.”

Joking that the comment would go unnoticed, the show’s alpha-presenter Jeremy Clarkson continued, “That’s why we’re not going to get any complaints about this - cos the Mexican Embassy, the Ambassador’s going to be sitting there with a remote like this [slumps in seat and snores]. They won’t complain. It’s fine”


2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

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Naturally the  BBC did receive complaints against the segment - 157 in total - for derogatory, racial stereotypes which were cruel, xenophobic, discriminatory and racist. 

One of the complainants was Eduardo Medina-Morca Icaza, the Mexican ambassador to the U.K. Icaza placed a formal complaint and threatened legal action under the U.K.‘s Equality Act, but was later appeased with an official apology from the BBC. 

“Made for Comic Effect”

In its ruling, Ofcom concluded that the show’s irreverent style would have led the majority of viewers to realize that the comments were “being made for comic effect.” 

Pardoning the show of any misdoings in this instance is hardly comfort to Tesla, which has complained that the similarly supposed “comic effects” of the show against its $109,000 sports car has met with anything but humor. 

Tesla Motor’s Director of Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa Myra Pasek has told us that since the show aired in Europe and subsequently worldwide, the company has struggled to throw off the prejudiced and inaccurate claim made by the BBC that its two-seater sports car could only drive 55 miles between charges. 

“It’s fine to entertain but you can’t entertain on the basis of lies,” she added.

Entertainment or not, Top Gear seems to be inhabiting a very grey area of classification, especially since it won an award for best factual program at the U.K’s National Television Awards earlier this year. 

Either it is entertainment, or it isn’t. Either way, we hope Tesla’s complaint isn’t dismissed as quickly as the Mexican ambassador’s.



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Comments (4)
  1. This is mildly offensive and I want to see it as a joke because I like the show so much. It is however in very poor taste.

  2. I don't mind the Mexican joke because I guess it was just an attempt at humour. What happened to Tesla wasn't an attempt at humour though. It was manipulative and suggestive staging of failure of the cars to prove a point that EV's don't work because Clarkson happens to hate them. They probably did it clever enough to dodge any legal consequences but maybe articles like Nikki's previous on this subject about how nothing on Top Gear is spontaneous but rather everything is scripted and staged will chip away at the magic of Top Gear when more and more people start to realize it's all just a fake. And an award for best factual program? This is a glorified clown show for crying out loud!

  3. Top Gear - watched by the majority of viewers for comedy based on cars. The show was revamped to be such as the original format from the 1980s and early 1990s was too car factual and boring hence not popular enough. So factual that it was taken off the air due to no viewers. In the past Clarkson has recommended the Volvo V70 as the ideal car for bank robbers and that we should all drive V8s to give better summers in Britain (global warming). If you are a human being, you should not think Clarkson is anything other than a car comic. If you are a car manufacturer, you should look at him as a car satirist with a major audience. Hence, better to inform him and caress his ego than threaten to sue. He has the audience, he has the power - electric or otherwise.

  4. I love this car show, but they need to stop bashing electric cars! It's going to one day over take the ice engine!

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