BBC's megahit Top Gear faced a dangerous situation in Ushuaia, Argentina when local veterans stormed a hotel over license plate controversy.
The hosts of Top Gear fled Argentina after possible Falkland War reference. While the BBC show is no stranger to controversy, the production team typically doesn't abandon everything and leave the country immediately.
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The Guardian reports that Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond were pelted with stones after the license on a Porsche 928 read H982 FKL, which may reference the Falklands War in 1982. The BBC denies any reference, saying the tag was simply attached to the car chosen, but the idea didn't deter a group of war veterans protesting outside the crew's hotel in Ushuaia. The protesting caused the production crew and hosts to leave the region three days early while a hired Argentinian was injured in the scuffle.
Martin Marcilla, a receptionist at the five-star Arakur hotel, confirmed police arrived on the scene after the war veterans invaded the hotel lobby. "They were very tense moments. The war veterans were furious and shouting insults. Police had to remove them. Luckily things didn’t get too out of hand."
He also confirms the rushed exit. "“They left the hotel just before 7.30pm. It was all very sudden and unexpected. They left by a service door and in such a hurry that they even forgot a computer.”
Juan Manuel Romano, secretary of social development for Ushuaia in southern Tierra del Fuego province, diplomatically said, “They have taken the decision to leave.”
Meanwhile, Diario Jornada, the Patagonian daily newspaper, headlined an article as "Top Gear is filming in Patagonia and there’s controversy." Leading into the story, the edge of controversy appears in the article, where claims of intent were clearly labeled. "Even though the BBC authorities asked the popular presenter Jeremy Clarkson to behave himself during his time in Argentina, he chose to use the provocative number plate H982 FKL on his Porsche, in reference to 1982 Falklands (Malvinas)."
The BCC categorically denies the claims. Andy Wilman, executive producer of the program, notes that the show often purchases cars for the express purpose of filming.
"Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original is completely untrue."
As mentioned previously, this isn't the first controversial incident this year, and Clarkson seems to be front and center over most. In this case, Clarkson was driving the Porsche while May and Hammond were driving a Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang respectively.
Clarkson received a “final warning” by the BBC after unbroadcast footage materialized where the British man supposedly used the N-word slur when mumbling an offensive version of the nursery rhyme "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe," though he denies such usage. And ofCom dinged the show for the use of a racially sensitive term while filming a two-part Burma special.
Due to the prior behavior hitting the gossip mill, rumors circulated that the BBC had warned Clarkson to behave or face serious consequences. While denying the truth of the rumors, the host did offer some hints of future behavior in May. “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked.”
However, he also realized the futility. "Even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with that hanging over his head. It’s inevitable that one day, someone, somewhere will say that I’ve offended them, and that will be that." Will previous behavior effect employment? Probably not, but given the actions, may viewers may begin questioning his intent in the future.
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Speculation surrounding the unexpected departure caused BBC to release a story of their own. In it, a spokesman said, "We're pleased the team is safe and would like to thank all of those who have helped. As the executive producer has made clear, the number plate issue is a very unfortunate coincidence."