Prime Minister David Cameron has criticised comments made by Top Gear television show presenter Jeremy Clarkson after he said the country's striking public sector workers should be shot in front of their families.
Clarkson, whose mocking personality helped make the Top Gear automobile show a popular broadcast around the world, was speaking on Wednesday as state workers like nurses, teachers and civil servants were staging a 24-hour strike against government plans to make them pay more and work longer for their pensions.
I'd have them all shot, the 51-year-old said on the BBC's prime-time One Show.
I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families, he added. I mean how dare they go on strike when they have got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?
After a media furore, Clarkson apologised on Thursday for his comments, while a BBC spokesman noted the One Show had apologised at the end of the show to viewers who may have been offended.
I didn't for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously -- as I believe is clear if they're seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologise for it alongside them, Clarkson said in comments carried by BBC news.
Cameron who is a friend of the presenter, said on the ITV's Good Morning programme the comments were a silly thing to say.
I'm sure he didn't mean it, he added.
Unison, the public service trade union, initially said it would consider taking legal action against the presenter over his appalling comments, but later welcomed Clarkson's apology and dropped plans for litigation and calls for his resignation.
We are pleased Jeremy Clarkson has seen the error of his ways. It is only right that he apologises for the huge offence he caused to public sector workers and their families, said Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, in a statement.
We would like to invite him to spend a day on a hospital ward, with one of our healthcare assistants. They do vital work caring for patients - cleaning up sick, bathing patients, and wiping bottoms. We think he has many of the personal skills necessary for the job, he added.
Unions estimated more than 2 million public sector workers in the UK went on strike over changes to their pensions on Wednesday, though polls showed not all Britons supported them.
Critics of the strike say state pensions compare very favourably with those in the private sector and that public workers should share the pain of belt-tightening measures.
Columnist James Delingpole wrote in right-leaning newspaper the Telegraph that Clarkson's critics should be taken out and shot for castigating the broadcaster over the employment of an acceptable and commonly used figure of speech.
For at least the last fifty years 'they should be taken out and shot,' has been a socially acceptable, perfectly unexceptionable way of expressing colourfully and vehemently one's distaste towards a particular category of unpleasantness, be it striking Unison workers, revolting students, poorly performing members of your football team or the Lib Dem members of Cameron's cabinet. Context is all, Delingpole wrote.
Clarkson is known for his outspokenness. He aroused public anger over comments about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's partial blindness and over an article in which he said the Welsh language should be abolished.
In February, he was at the centre of a diplomatic row after making offensive remarks about Mexico, suggesting the country didn't have an Olympic team, because anyone who can run jump or swim is already across the (U.S.) border.
(Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato)