Evans’ quick exit comes amid reports that the longtime BBC personality is under investigation by police for allegations that surfaced in May about a sexual assault dating back to the early 1990s. At the same time, “Top Gear” has struggled in the ratings since it relaunched in May with Evans at the helm and five co-hosts including actor Matt LeBlanc..
The Heat Street website recently reported that Evans was set to be quizzed by London’s Metropolitan police over allegations of sexual harassment and groping that were made against Evans in May, allegedly dating from the early 1990s. Evans has denied the claims, deeming the allegations of bullying “ridiculous” and a “witch-hunt.” The host has also been the subject of lurid allegations that he repeatedly exposed himself to co-workers during the same early 1990s period.
The presenter, who also hosts the Beeb’s Radio 2 breakfast show, said Monday that standing aside on “Top Gear” after concluding the six-episode season would be “the single best thing I can do now.”
BBC News did not mention the sexual harassment allegations in its coverage of Evans’ departure. BBC News said it “understands” that LeBlanc and the other co-hosts — Rory Reid, Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz and Eddie Jordan — will be back to film a new season starting in September.
“I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last twelve months,” Evans said in a statement from the BBC. “I feel like standing aside is the single best thing I can no do to help the cause. I remain a huge fan of the show, always have been, always will be. I will continue to focus on my radio show and the allied events that it encompasses.
The host also tweeted: “Stepping down from Top Gear. Gave it my best shot but sometimes that’s not enough.”
Evans had signed a three-year deal with the BBC to revive the world’s biggest motoring show following the firing last year of Jeremy Clarkson after he punched a producer. Clarkson’s co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May also exited the show; the trio wound up signing a deal with Amazon for a similar automotive-adventure series, “The Grand Tour,” expected to bow in the fall.
Evans’ resignation comes after “Top Gear” hit a series low on Sunday night with the season closer drawn an average of 1.9 million viewers.
“Top Gear” has increasingly becoming a target of the U.K. tabloids, speculating a rift between Evans and Le Blanc. Evans denied the rumors.
The struggles of the “Top Gear” relaunch under Evans is a blow to the BBC’s effort to salvage the franchise that blossomed into a worldwide smash during the past decade thanks to the camaraderie and competitiveness among Clarkson, Hammond and May. The weakening of “Top Gear” has also cost BBC America one of its most-watched programs.
Evans had been a frequent guest on the previous incarnation of “Top Gear.” But the revamped edition drew mixed reviews from the start and viewership dropped steadily week to week.