Jeremy Clarkson will remain host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? “Right now,” said the ITV boss, as the presenter’s comments about the Duchess of Sussex attracted a record number of press regulator complaints.
Kevin Lego said ITV had “no control” over what Clarkson said in his column for The Sun newspaper but “should apologize” for his comments.
In a recent column for The Sun, Clarkson said he felt “hatred” for Meghan and dreamed of seeing her publicly humiliated on the street. Clarkson later said he was referring to a scene in Game of Thrones and requested that the column be removed from the Internet because people misunderstood it.
The Independent Journalistic Standards Organization (Ipso) said Clarkson’s newspaper column became the most complained-about article in its history, with 20,800 complaints as of Tuesday evening.
Lego, managing director of ITV Studios, told members of the broadcast press syndicate: “We have no control over what he says. We hire him as the witty announcer of TV’s most popular quiz, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
“So it wasn’t in our wheelhouse but I don’t know what he was thinking when he wrote that. It was awful.”
Asked if ITV would keep Clarkson as host of the competition, Lygo said: “Yes, we are at the moment. What he says in the papers we have no control over.”
Asked if Clarkson represents ITV’s values, Lego replied, “No, of course he doesn’t in this case.”
On Monday, Clarkson hit back at the controversy, while offering no apology: “Oh dear. I’d rather put my foot in it.” In a column I wrote about Meghan, I inaccurately referred to a scene in Game of Thrones, and it went badly with a ton of people. I am terrified because I have caused so much harm and I will be more careful in the future.”
The case comes amid renewed scrutiny of British newspaper regulations following the release of the Harry and Meghan documentary on Netflix, in which the royal couple expressed their unhappiness with the coverage they received.
On Monday, the Guardian revealed that the head of Ipso, which will investigate allegations against Clarkson’s The Sun column, was set to dine at Sun owner Rupert Murdoch’s apartment – but pulled out earlier that day.
Ipso said it would take longer than usual to assess whether there had been any breaches of its rules due to the volume of complaints. However, the Ipso Code does not cover matters of taste and decency – which means it is unlikely that Clarkson broke any rules.
Press organizing campaign group Hacked Off took over Clarkson’s column. It has organized a letter signed by celebrities who have suffered from media intrusion – including Sienna Miller, Steve Coogan and Simon Pegg – urging the government to implement the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry on regulating the press.
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