Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson last night apologised after calling Prime Minister Gordon Brown a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”.
The presenter came under fire from politicians and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for the comments he made in Australia.
In a statement issued through BBC Worldwide last night he said: “In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the Prime Minister's personal appearance for which, upon reflection, I apologise.”
The BBC later issued a brief statement in the wake of the Clarkson apology. A spokesman said: “We note that Jeremy has issued an apology for the personal remarks he made about the Prime Minister.”
Mr Brown lost his sight in one eye after an accident playing rugby as a teenager.
Clarkson, speaking at a press conference in Sydney, compared Mr Brown with Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, after Mr Rudd had just addressed the country on the global financial crisis.
During the conference, Clarkson said: “It's the first time I've ever seen a world leader admit we really are in deep s***.
“He genuinely looked terrified. I thought, the poor man, he's actually seen the books.
“In England we have this one-eyed Scottish idiot, the one-eyed Scottish man, he keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us.”
A Downing Street spokesman later declined to respond to Clarkson's description of Mr Brown, saying: “I don't think I'm going to get into those comments.”
Asked at a daily briefing of Westminster reporters how the Prime Minister would respond to Clarkson’s suggestion that Mr Rudd was more honest with voters about the economic crisis, the spokesman said: “Mr Clarkson is entitled to his own interpretation of the economic circumstances.”
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, visiting business leaders in Northern Ireland yesterday, gave a caustic reaction to Clarkson's description of the Prime Minister.
“I've got absolutely no repeatable views to express on Mr Jeremy Clarkson,” he said.
The BBC later said it would be taking no further action against Clarkson. The row is the latest controversy to hit the corporation, coming days after Carol Thatcher was dropped from The One Show for comparing a tennis player with a golliwog.
Ian Macrae, editor of the magazine Disability Now, which is published by disability charity Scope, questioned why strong action was taken against Thatcher, while Clarkson had not been reprimanded.
He said: “That the BBC will not tolerate racism expressed in private by one of its frontline presenters, while failing to condemn Clarkson for an overtly disablist reference to a major public figure, smacks of double standards.”
The RNIB, the charity for the blind and partially sighted, also condemned Clarkson's comments.
RNIB's chief executive, said: “Any suggestion that equates disability with incompetence is totally unacceptable.
Gordon Banks, Labour MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, demanded Clarkson say sorry for including the word “Scottish” in his attack on the Prime Minister.
He accused the presenter of “trying to divide the UK”, adding, “People in public positions should engage their brains before they open their mouths.”
No stranger to causing offence
Controversial and outspoken, with scores of enemies, Jeremy Clarkson is no stranger to causing offence as one of the BBC’s highest-paid stars.
The Doncaster-born presenter of Top Gear frequently rides roughshod over climate concerns, safety rules and political correctness at all levels of society.
From deliberately driving a Toyota pick-up truck into a tree to joking about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes, he is often the subject of BBC apologies and has earned the wrath of animal lovers, road safety groups and MPs alike.
His rants on everything from take-away food in Birmingham to Vauxhall Vectras have made the boorish presenter — who struck a multi-million pound deal last year to promote the motoring programme’s brand around the world — one of the BBC’s most well-known stars.
His denouncement in Australia (inset) of Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” is just the latest in an extensive catalogue of controversies involving Clarkson, who reportedly earns a |£2 million salary.
In November last year, viewers complained in their thousands when he joked about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.
Regulator Ofcom received 339 complaints about the remarks, and almost 2,000 people complained to the BBC.
Ofcom later ruled the quip did not breach the Broadcasting Code.