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'Top Gear' host Clarkson suspended after clash

"He has crossed that line, I feel personally." - British TV critic Toby Earle

By Doug G. Ware

LONDON, March 10 (UPI) -- Jeremy Clarkson, one of the presenters for the U.K.'s automotive program Top Gear, has been suspended by the British Broadcasting Corporation after a reported skirmish with a producer.

BBC News reported the falling out Tuesday, saying the controversial 54-year-old Clarkson had been suspended pending an investigation. The broadcaster didn't reveal details of the altercation, saying only that there was a "fracas" between Clarkson and one of the show's producers.

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"No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday," the BBC said.

Clarkson, one of three presenters for the automotive specialty program, is no stranger to controversy, however. Britain's regulatory office last July said he broke broadcasting rules by using a racial slur during an episode filmed in Burma. Two months earlier, viewers complained after a video surfaced that appeared to show Clarkson using another racial epithet while reciting a nursery rhyme. Clarkson subsequently apologized and pleaded for forgiveness.

In October 2012, he was again criticized for a remark which some found insensitive to people with disabilities. A year earlier, he was condemned for stating that Mexican nationals are lazy and irresponsible. Clarkson has also been similarly criticized on a number of other occasions.

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"This incident is the one that has really forced management to take action," TV critic Toby Earle told BBC News, while noting that Clarkson had already received a final warning. "You have to think that something fairly substantial has happened. Because this is the most widely watched factual television program in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records."

"This incident is really the one that has really forced management to take action," he added. "He has crossed that line, I feel personally."

Social commentator Deborah Orr blasted Clarkson Tuesday for his continuing controversial behavior in a Guardian column titled, "Jeremy Clarkson should do the decent thing and resign."

Orr opined that the strong television personality, who once remarked that striking British public workers should be shot "in front of their families" amid a labor dispute, is well beyond his third strike.

"Why does the BBC put up with Clarkson?" Orr questioned. "Surely, whatever the details of The Fracas, it's time for a parting of the ways. It's long been clear that Clarkson is either unwilling or unable to accept the limitations placed upon him by mainstream professional broadcasting.

"Clarkson's track record is such that it must be quite difficult to be relaxed about giving him freedom to say what he wishes to."

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Clarkson has been a presenter on Top Gear for two different stints -- first between 1988 and 2000 and again following the show's reformatting and relaunch in 2002.

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