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"Top Gear" host apologizes for anti-strike remarks

BBC automobile program Top Gear presenter Clarkson speaks with a member of his crew outside 10 Downing Street in London
BBC automobile program Top Gear presenter Clarkson speaks with a member of his crew outside 10 Downing Street in London

By Philip Baillie

LONDON (Reuters) - "Top Gear" television show presenter Jeremy Clarkson on Thursday apologized for saying Britain's striking public sector workers should be "shot in front of their families."

Clarkson, whose mocking personality helped make the "Top Gear" car show a popular broadcast around the world, caused a furor with his comments on Wednesday as nurses, teachers and civil servants staged a 24-hour strike against government plans to make them pay more and work longer for their pensions.

"I'd have them all shot," the 51-year-old said on BBC television's "One Show".

"I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families," he added. "I mean how dare they go on strike when they have got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"

After a media furor, Clarkson apologized, while a BBC spokesman noted the "One Show" had apologized at the end of the show to viewers who may have been offended.

"I didn't for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously -- as I believe is clear if they're seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologize for it alongside them," Clarkson said on Thursday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron who is a friend of Clarkson's, had called the comments a "silly thing to say."

"I'm sure he didn't mean it," he added.

Unison, the public service trade union, welcomed Clarkson's apology and dropped plans for litigation and calls for his resignation.

"We would like to invite him to spend a day on a hospital ward, with one of our healthcare assistants. They do vital work caring for patients - cleaning up sick, bathing patients, and wiping bottoms," Unison added in a statement.

Unions estimated more than 2 million public sector workers in the UK went on strike over changes to their pensions on Wednesday, though polls showed not all Britons supported them.

Clarkson is known for his outspokenness. He aroused public anger over comments about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's partial blindness and for suggesting the Welsh language should be abolished.

In February, he was at the center of a diplomatic row after making offensive remarks about Mexico, suggesting the country didn't have an Olympic team, "because anyone who can run jump or swim is already across the (U.S.) border."

(Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato)

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