Victims of Jimmy Savile have denounced comparisons of the support shown embattled Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson to the widespread protection offered to the dead paedophile presenter as "upsetting" and "totally offensive".
A senior figure at the BBC is said to have suggested that Clarkson is able to behave as he wishes because of his celebrated position and his support from powerful friends, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Mail on Sunday claimed the BBC chief compared the support for Clarkson to the way sex offender Savile was defended.
Clarkson was suspended after allegedly punching Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon after filming for the show during a row over a hot meal at a hotel.
The newspaper quoted the unnamed figure as saying, "The pressure this guy (Tymon) is under is so Savilesque in a way", adding: "If you look at what David Cameron says or what (former culture secretary Maria Miller) says and you swap Clarkson for Savile, you get this: David Cameron is effectively saying that Savile's a real talent, Maria Miller saying Savile will be Savile."
The reported comments drew a furious response from victims of the former Radio 1 DJ.
Liz Dux, a lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which is representing 169 of Savile's victims, said such comparisons of the issues had upset victims.
She said: "Many of Savile's victims find a direct parallel between these issues to be upsetting and highly inappropriate.
"One victim said that while both have celebrity status, to suggest other similarities is totally offensive.
"Nevertheless, they want the lessons from Savile learned, whereby fame and celebrity must never be an excuse to overlook wrongdoing."
The BBC boss was also reported to have scotched suggestions that the spat was part of a wider disagreement between Clarkson and Danny Cohen, the corporation's director of television.
The person apparently told the MoS: "People keep saying that this is a case of Danny Cohen v Jeremy Clarkson. It is not. This is Jeremy Clarkson v Jeremy Clarkson. Jeremy is self-destructing. Danny is not the person who is driving this, it is Jeremy."
They added that it was "common knowledge" that Clarkson has "personal issues", saying they would advise him to take one of two courses of action - "to try to play it down - or I would go into rehab and show the world I am trying to change".
A BBC spokesman said: "The BBC's position is the one we set out in a statement last week. We have an investigation led by Ken MacQuarrie to establish the facts and people should wait for the outcome of that."
A friend of Clarkson today said the presenter had called BBC bosses to apologise over the fracas in an attempt to draw a line under the matter.
Writing in the Sunday Times, AA Gill said the investigation into the row was "preposterous and ponderous", and praised him as hard-working.
Clarkson yesterday likened himself to a dinosaur, hinting in his column for The Sun that the time may have come for him to leave Top Gear.
The row between Clarkson and Mr Tymon is said to have occurred because no hot food was laid on at Simonstone Hall Hotel near Hawes, North Yorkshire, where the crew were staying after filming.
An investigation will be carried out by a BBC panel led by Mr MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who examined Newsnight's false expose of Lord McAlpine.
A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client "intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete".