Over 33,000 people have signed a petition asking for Jeremy Clarkson to keep his job at ITV as the quiz show host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The petition asks, “Don’t cancel Jeremy Clarkson” after his controversial comments on Meghan Markle.
Carolyn McCall, the CEO of ITV, has offered her thoughts on the recent controversy surrounding Jeremy Clarkson, following calls for the presenter to be removed from the popular show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”.
The rumours that Clarkson is being dropped by Amazon Prime Video as a result of his comments about Meghan Markle, which received significant backlash, have been circulating for some time now. Although Clarkson has apologized for his comments, he later posted a longer explanation on Instagram in an attempt to provide more context and clarify his stance.
ITV seems to be backing Jeremy Clarkson’s place on the show, but Amazon is expected to drop the presenter. The ITV CEO responded to calls to have the ex-Top Gear presenter fired:
“Everyone at ITV is very aware of our responsibilities as a Public Service Broadcaster and I’d like to be clear that the comments made were Jeremy Clarkson’s own and are in no way endorsed by ITV. There is no place on ITV for the comments made in that article.
“It is also worth adding that Jeremy Clarkson is not an ITV employee and that when he appears on ITV it is as a quiz show host on a show which does not provide a platform for his opinions.”
Now, more than 33,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to stop him getting “cancelled”.
The petition reads as follows:
Dear Dame Carolyn,
Please don’t fire Jeremy Clarkson as host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? as a result of what he wrote about the Duchess of Sussex in the Sun newspaper in December.
While Mr Clarkson’s remarks were considered offensive by some and provoked a record number of complaints to the press regulator, the negative reaction has been completely disproportionate. For instance, the BBC presenter Chris Packham said he thought he should be sent to jail and the Sun closed down, while 60+ MPs wrote to you urging you to permanently ban Mr Clarkson from ever appearing on ITV again.
The MPs’ letter accused Mr Clarkson of “expressing violent hate speech”, but at least two of its signatories have used similarly intemperate language themselves: Claudia Webbe MP was found guilty of harassment in 2021, having been accused of threatening to throw acid at her partner’s lover, among other things, while Zarah Sultana MP sent a tweet telling someone whose views on Israel she disagreed with to “jump off a cliff”.
Moreover, if the people condemning Clarkson believe that the sort of language he used is harmful, why have the same people remained silent when other public personalities have said even more unpleasant things about people they dislike, such as Jo Brand on the Radio 4 programme Heresy joking about throwing battery acid at Nigel Farage, or a guest on Radio 4’s News Quiz saying Michael Gove has “a face that makes even the most pacifist of people reach for the shovel”?
We accept these statements were not intended to be taken literally and the people in question were just using hyperbole for comedic effect. But isn’t that equally true of Jeremy Clarkson’s column in the Sun?
This suggests that much of the outrage caused my Mr Clarkson’s comments has been ‘performative’, in that some of the people expressing it do not appear to really believe Mr Clarkson’s remarks put anyone at risk. After all, if they genuinely believe his words posed a danger to the safety of the Duchess of Sussex or women and girls in general – as some have claimed – why have so many of them repeated those words verbatim in the course of condemning him?
Jo Brand was not banned from our screens after joking about throwing battery acid at Nigel Farage – she made that remark in 2019 and yet she appeared on ITV last year in Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. It would be inconsistent to ban Jeremy Clarkson from ITV because of the similarly hyperbolic language he used to express his dislike of the Duchess of Sussex.
I hope you are not taking more seriously the complaints about Mr Clarkson because one of the complainants is a Duchess and the daughter-in-law of a King. We note that Piers Morgan was reportedly asked by senior managers at ITV to apologise for his comments about the Duchess on Good Morning Britain in 2021 after ITV received a complaint from the Duchess. To apportion extra weight to a complaint because the complainant is rich and powerful – worse, to sack Jeremy Clarkson because he upset a Duchess – would be to send a message to ITV’s on-screen talent, including your news and current affairs reporters, that saying anything that annoys somebody well-connected and influential may result in them losing their jobs.
One additional consideration is that the Sun has taken down the column in question at Mr Clarkson’s request and he has made what appears to be a sincere apology to the Duke and Duchess. Unfortunately, instead of accepting this apology, they responded by accusing him of a “longstanding pattern of writing articles that spread hate rhetoric, dangerous conspiracy theories and misogyny”. These words – which, on the face of it, are both false and defamatory – are clearly intended to destroy Mr Clarkson’s career and are potentially far more harmful to him than anything he said about the Duchess.
I hope you will not reward the Sussexs’ vindictiveness by doing what they would clearly like you to do, which is to sack Mr Clarkson and permanently ban him from ITV. That would be an example of cancel culture at its worst. If people make mistakes and then apologise for them, we should give them the benefit of the doubt, not seek to destroy their livelihoods and turn them into social pariahs. After all, we believe in the possibility of redemption for even the most hardened criminals; why can’t we extend the same charity to people whose only crime is to have said something offensive?
Finally, we would ask you to bear in mind the price Jeremy Clarkson has already paid for his remarks. Amazon has indicated it will not commission any more seasons of Clarkson’s Farm or The Grand Tour and his Sun column has not appeared in the newspaper again, suggesting he has lost that, too. Is he to be punished even further by losing his only other main source of income? The punishment is already completely disproportionate to the crime, without you compounding his humiliation.