The BBC has refused to apologise to Argentina over Jeremy Clarkson’s behaviour during the controversial Top Gear special.
Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, held a meeting with Danny Cohen, the BBC’s director of television, last week in which she demanded a public apology. She was furious that Clarkson had entered the country in a Porsche bearing the number plate H982 FKL – seen as a deliberately provocative reference to the 1982 Falklands conflict.
Ambassador Castro also objected to “offensive” remarks Clarkson made in his newspaper columns after returning home, in which he branded the Tierra del Fuego region a “Mafia state” and accused its government of letting the Top Gear team walk into an “ambush” which saw crew members attacked by a mob.
However, the BBC wrote to Ambassador Castro on Thursday with no apology, adding that the programme would be broadcast as planned.
The corporation instead painted the Top Gear team as victims of Argentine aggression, and insisted once again that the number plates were a coincidence.
In a letter seen by The Telegraph, Mr Cohen wrote:
Thank you for visiting the BBC.
Like you, I am keen that the excellent degree of co-operation on various ongoing BBC projects in your country continues.
In particular, there is some wonderful work taking place presently with the BBC’s Natural History Unit and I am grateful for the support that is being given to these teams. We are keen to reflect the vibrancy, diversity and beauty of Argentina.
With regard to Top Gear, I am very aware that some have questioned whether the number plates were in some way a prank. I would like to reassure you again that nothing we have seen or read since the team returned supports the view that this was a deliberate act.
The BBC was disturbed by the violence the team faced during their visit and I know we are agreed that this violence should not be condoned.
Turning to Jeremy Clarkson. In addition to being employed by the BBC, he is also a columnist for two national newspapers. Mr Clarkson stands by the account he has provided in his newspaper columns.
We do plan to go ahead and broadcast the Top Gear programme filmed in Argentina. We will ensure that these programmes are a fair representation of what took place throughout their stay.
Thank you once again for visiting the BBC and making known your views.”