A petition to allow outspoken Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson to return to the motoring show after he was suspended for bad behaviour has gathered more than 500,000 signatures.
Broadcaster BBC announced Clarkson’s suspension on Wednesday and said the 54-year-old had been stood down pending investigation following a “fracas” with a producer.
The change.org petition, which has been signed by 525,000 people, calls for the BBC to reinstate Clarkson.
“We the undersigned petition the BBC to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson. Freedom to fracas,” the petition reads.
Many signatories accused the public broadcaster of being oversensitive and at risk of upsetting Top Gear‘s 300 million viewers worldwide.
“There is no Top Gear without Clarkson,” wrote one New York man.
Another UK supporter said: “A minority of over sensitive people should not ruin one of Britons favourite shows”.
The outspoken presenter told The Sun newspaper in 2014 he was already on his “final warning” over a racial slur several years ago.
Speaking to reporters outside his London home on Wednesday, Clarkson admitted he regretted what happened, but made light of the situation, saying he was “just off to the job centre”.
Fellow Top Gear host James May also played down the incident between Clarkson and the producer.
“I think he’s been involved in a bit of a dust-up and I don’t think it’s that serious,” May said.
Clarkson, May and fellow presenter Richard Hammond have joked about the incident on Twitter following the announcement Sunday night’s episode would not be screened.
“No Top Gear this weekend, apparently. How about 633 Squadron instead?” May tweeted to the men.
Former Chair of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons warned the investigation should focus on the fray alone, and not be swayed by the show’s popularity.
“There is nobody who is bigger than the BBC’s reputation,” Sir Lyons told BBC News.
“This has been a nagging problem for some time.”
— James May (@MrJamesMay) March 10, 2015
— Richard Hammond (@RichardHammond) March 10, 2015
Save Clarkson? Save empty cardboard boxes and off-cuts of string. They’re far more useful. — James May (@MrJamesMay) March 11, 2015