, LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 11 – The BBC said on Tuesday it had suspended Jeremy Clarkson, the controversial host of popular motoring programme “Top Gear” after he was involved in a “fracas” with a producer.
The outspoken 54-year-old presenter helped the show become an immensely popular television programme, with 350 million viewers a week in 170 countries.
But he was on his final warning after a string of controversies including accusations he used racist language.
“Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation,” the BBC said in a statement. “No one else has been suspended.”
The Radio Times magazine said Clarkson was being accused of aiming a punch at a male producer in an incident that occurred last week but was reported to the BBC on Monday.
The broadcaster had earlier said “the BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”
No sooner had the suspension been announced than fans of Clarkson set up a petition to the BBC to reinstate him.
“We the undersigned petition the BBC to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson. Freedom to fracas”, said the online appeal at www.change.org, which quickly gained more than 122,000 signatures.
“I’m signing because Clarkson is a superb presenter and Top Gear is without doubt one (of) the BBC’s better programmes. The viewing figures support this,” wrote one supporter named Peter Maxwell.
“I pay my TV license to ensure that irreverent people can express themselves,” said another named Veronique Favreau.
As the story made the front pages of most British papers Wednesday, Clarkson tweeted “Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your ‘I’m a human’ piece down the news agenda.”
He was apparently referring to a BBC interview with the wife of opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.