BBC broadcasters insult Mexicans - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

BBC broadcasters insult Mexicans

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Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 4:00 pm

MEXICO CITY - The air war with Britain lasted a week. It began Jan. 30 when the BBC's, "Top Gear" TV program commentators Jeremy Clarkson, 50, James May, 48, and Mark Hammond, 41, launched a vicious defamatory, stereotyping tirade against Mexicans.

The outburst came while announcing that Mexican manufacturer Mastretta was bringing out a sports car. Hammond asked, why would anyone want a Mexican car? Autos reflect national characteristics, he said, and described Mexicans as "lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight." Clarkson and May joined in with other insults.

They hectored Mexico's ambassador, saying he was home, in front of the telly, snoring. They made other allusions to food, sleeping and lazy.

Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora responded quickly on Feb. 1 with a letter to the BBC protesting the "denigrating and xenophobic" comments.

The "outrageous, vulgar, and inexcusable insults to stir bigoted feelings against the Mexican people," he wrote, "is not a matter of taste but of basic principles." He added, "Humor never justifies xenophobia."

Clarkson had actually already lashed out at Mexicans in 2008 by writing on Top Gear's website that U.S. bankers and Mexicans were responsible for the approaching financial crisis. Mexicans, he said, wouldn't pay their mortgages when loans came due and a world economic apocalypse would follow because of them. Bomb them, he added.

For some odd reason, Mexico's Mastretta MXT set off the auto show Top Gear team. The luxury car, announced in November 2010, has been clocked reaching the speed of 100 kilometers (62.137 miles per hour) in five seconds and will sell for $56,000.

The same day of the ambassador's letter, the news broadcast system Instituto Mexicano de la Radio (IMER by its Spanish acronym), suspended BBC transmissions to Mexico but resumed them later that day.

British embassy press officer Patricia Cordero in Mexico City told me the Top Gear matter was between the two independent organizations, IMER and the BBC. The British ambassador would not have a governmental statement. However, the British embassy did recognize Mexico as the 14th largest world economy and an important commercial partner to Great Britain. About 350 companies are doing business here and 300,000 Britons visit annually.

Mexico Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara told the daily El Universal that Mexico's level of productivity is greater than that of some markets, "for example Great Britain." So much for lazy.

Soccer star Javier Hernandez, known as "Chicarito," who plays for Manchester United, weighed in with a Twitter message, "Less prejudice, more exercise," he messaged for his sports drink sponsor, Powerade. The Mexican sports program Matutino Express responded with distasteful faux humor, sarcastically claiming they only cited examples of what they would never say.

The U.S. Emmy-winning Latino comedian Mike Robles responded with effigies of English comedic icons Benny Hill and Mr. Bean supporting a better brand of humor.

On Feb. 2, lawyers for Iris de la Torre, a Mexican student in London, said they were investigating the strange matter since just the previous month a new law had gone into effect prohibiting discrimination by any person in a public service.

In Washington, D.C., the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, Being Latino, League of United Latin American Citizens, and National Council of La Raza complained to BBC Worldwide America president Herb Scannel that the episode was a Top Gear publicity stunt to counter declining revenues.

Also, the letter said, the program didn't meet BBC America's Standards and Practices for airing in the U.S., or for syndication.

By week's end, BBC in London announced it had received an apology letter, addressed to Mexico's ambassador, from Top Gear's executive producer.

Meanwhile, Britain's head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, told the BBC, "What was said is juvenile, it's vulgar, you know it's unacceptable, but that's for broadcasters and columnists to argue about. It's not for the law."

"The boys decided not to dwell on the Mexican business," a Top Gear source said about the next installment.

"The boys," as we know, are 50, 48, and 41.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at For more stories visit

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