Nearly 10,000 of Jeremy Clarkson’s fans have signed a petition urging ITV not to sack him as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? following his controversial column about Meghan Markle.
Carolyn McCall, ITV’s CEO, recently cast doubt on Clarkson’s future on the network when she told MP John Nicolson his views were ‘in no way endorsed by ITV.’
The creators of the petition, which is addressed to Dame Carolyn, claim Clarkson’s punishment is ‘already completely disproportionate to the crime, adding being sacked by ITV would ‘compound his humiliation.’
The TV personality is already expected to be counting the cost of his views, amid reports that Amazon will no longer produce his shows Clarkson’s Farm and The Grand Tour from next year.
Jeremy Clarkson (pictured), host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, issued an apology for remarks he made about Meghan Markle on Tuesday
Clarkson wrote that he ‘hated’ the Duchess and dreamed of her being paraded through towns naked, having ‘excrement’ thrown at her
It comes after Clarkson’s column in The Sun in which he said he ‘hated’ Meghan Markle – and added he dreamed of the duchess being paraded naked through British towns and having excrement thrown at her.
It quickly became the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s (Ipso) most complained-about article after its publication, with many branding his comments ‘misogynistic’.
The Sun later apologised and said it regretted the publication of the column, which has surpassed more than 25,000 Ipso complaints.
Even Clarkson’s own daughter made a public statement in which she condemned her father’s comments.
But the 62-year-old TV presenter, who also experienced his fair share of controversy while working on Top Gear for the BBC, has a loyal fan base who seem prepared to back him despite what Clarkson himself described as ‘disgraceful’ language.
After Clarkson was fired by the BBC after punching a producer of Top Gear in 2015, a petition launched to reinstate him on the show had over one million supporters.
Now a petition set up by the Free Speech Union appeals to ITV bosses to ‘please don’t fire Jeremy Clarkson’ and claims that some of those who opposed the column in the aftermath of its publication ‘do not appear to really believe Mr Clarkson’s remarks put anyone at risk.’
The statement claims that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are attempting to ‘destroy Mr Clarkson’s career’ and are therefore ‘far more harmful to him than anything he said about the Duchess’.
It adds that a decision to fire Clarkson would amount to ‘cancel culture at its worst’ and claims ITV should ‘bear in mind the price Jeremy Clarkson has already paid for his remarks’.
The founder wrote: ‘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.’
After his column provoked outrage, Clarkson wrote to the Sussexes to apologise on Christmas Day – although the couple later claimed his letter only addressed Harry directly.
However, his future at ITV now seems to hang in the balance.
Dame Carolyn wrote a letter to Mr Nicolson in response to correspondence he sent asking if Clarkson’s comments went against ITV’s Statement of Programme Policy and Social Purpose Strategy.
In the response, which was published by entertainment website Deadline, did not say whether he would lose his job, but said concerns about his comments were ‘completely understandable’.
She said ‘ITV has no editorial control over Jeremy Clarkson’s independent journalistic output in The Sun or anywhere else he chooses to publish’.
‘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,’ she wrote.
‘There is no place on ITV for the comments made in that article.
She added that he was not an ITV employee and his role as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? does not ‘given hi a platform for his opinions’.
Earlier this week ITV said it will have ‘no further commitments’ with Clarkson after the next series of the show airs this year, sparking suggestions he had lost the gig which earns him around £3million per year.
Bosses refused to comment when contacted by MailOnline previously about the reports.
But when asked directly if Clarkson would be presenting the show, a spokesperson said ITV ‘has a further series contractually commissioned and due to film’, adding that there was ‘no further commissioning commitments beyond that currently.’
The petition had more than 4,000 signatures from Clarkson supporters at the time of publication
Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Media and Entertainment, previously said in December that he had ‘no control’ over what Clarkson wrote in his columns but did go as far as asking him to apologise.
Asked if Clarkson would be kept on as host of Millionaire, Mr Lygo said: ‘Yes, at the moment we are. What he says in the papers we have no control of.’
Clarkson is thought to be paid about £3million a year to present the hit quiz show, having taken over from Chris Tarrant in 2018.
But the Daily Mail’s Alison Boshoff reports that he was due to film celebrity special editions of the show next month, before they were pushed back due to ‘scheduling issues’.
The studio, crew and celebrities were all booked to attend the Dock 10 studio in Manchester and arrangements for the programmes – which would have raised money for charity – were finalised.
However at the end of last week, the production company told participants that filming had been postponed due to ‘scheduling issues.’
An email said: ‘Owing to some movement in the ITV schedules, we’re now unable to record the planned Celebrity specials until later this year.’
Fans of the 62-year-old fear he is being ‘cancelled in front of our eyes’ after it was reported that Amazon Prime is set to stop producing the presenter’s shows – Clarkson’s Farm and The Grand Tour – next year, the latter of which earns him at least £10million annually.
Carolyn McCall, boss of ITV, has written in a letter there is ‘no place’ for Clarkson’s views at the channel
Prince Harry branded the article about his wife Meghan Markle ‘horrific, hurtful and cruel’
In a lengthy statement on his verified Instagram account, The Grand Tour presenter said he emailed the couple on Christmas Day to say his language in the column had been ‘disgraceful’ and he was ‘profoundly sorry’
On Monday night, a virtual press conference to promote the second season of Clarkson’s Farm was cancelled by Amazon at the last-minute, although the series will still be available for streaming from February 10.
In his apology, Clarkson had admitted that Amazon executives were ‘incandescent’ following his column, with reports suggesting the company will be unlikely to work with him in the near future.
It comes as some critics implored the Sussexes to ‘move on’ from the ‘drama’, suggesting their quest for the ‘total humiliation’ of Clarkson by publicly rejecting his apologies goes against the ‘compassion and love’ that they so often preach.
Ann Widdecombe was among the commentators who rallied round Clarkson this week, as she blasted ‘cancel culture’, adding that she has ‘a very low opinion of people who reject apologies’, in a clear criticism of Harry and Meghan.
However others branded the presenter’s contrition insincere, accusing the TV star of failing to address the offence caused by his column and of being motivated by his own lucrative career interests.
In a lengthy statement on Instagram in which he apologised for his comments, Clarkson described the moment he picked up a copy of the Sun to ‘see what all the fuss was about.’
He continued: ‘We’ve all been there, I guess. In that precise moment when we suddenly realise we’ve completely messed up. You are sweaty and cold at the same time. And your head pounds. And you feel sick. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Had I really said that? It was horrible.
‘I knew what had happened straight away. I’d been thinking of a scene in Games of Thrones, but I’d forgotten to mention this. So it looked like I was actually calling for revolting violence to rain down on Meghan’s head.
‘I was very angry with myself because in all those controversial days on Top Gear, when I was accused of all sorts of things, it was very rarely sexism.
‘I was mortified and so was everyone else. My phone went mad. Very close friends were furious. Even my own daughter took to Instagram to denounce me.’
ITV has been contacted for comment.