Kevin Lygo, ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, said Tuesday that Jeremy Clarkson will continue as the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” despite his comments about Meghan Markle that a group of British lawmakers said used “violent misogynistic language.”
Clarkson wrote in his column in The Sun newspaper Friday that he “hated [Markle] on a cellular level.” He also wrote: “At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
His remarks were met with thousands of complaints, including from lawmakers, some of whom called for his dismissal by ITV. On Monday, Clarkson said on social media: “I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.” However, he did not apologize for his comments.
Lygo, speaking to members of the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, said: “It was awful what he said and I think even he has acknowledged that. […] He should apologize.”
He added: “But I would say, you know, what he writes in a newspaper column is really more for you to talk about because we have no control over what he says. We hire him as a consummate broadcaster of the most famous quiz on television. So it’s not quite in our wheelhouse, but no, I don’t know what he was thinking when he wrote that. It was awful.”
When asked whether ITV would be keeping Clarkson as the host of “Millionaire,” Lygo responded: “Yes, at the moment, we are […] I think his job as a quiz host is fine,” he said. Asked whether Clarkson represented ITV’s values when he made his comments in The Sun, Lygo responded: “Well, no, of course he doesn’t, in that instance.”
Lygo was also asked whether he would bring back soccer pundit Gary Neville, who is a regular on pay TV service Sky. The former England player had said during ITV’s coverage of the soccer World Cup final: “It is just worth mentioning that we’ve got a current government in our country who are demonizing rail workers, ambulance workers and, terrifyingly, nurses.”
ITV is designated as a “public service broadcaster” under U.K. law, which grants it certain privileges, but also requires it to fulfil certain obligations, which includes being impartial.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had responded: “I think when most people are tuning in to watch Gary Neville they want to hear about the football and watch the football. They don’t want to discuss politics.”
Lygo commented: “Remember, he’s a Sky guy, essentially. And we hired him because he is obviously a brilliant football pundit. We were happy to have him in the team. And I think, you know, on the night of the final when he riffed off on his political journey, it was obviously valid, even though he didn’t reflect ITV’s views. Of course, he didn’t. You know, we’re heavily regulated, balanced and all the rest of it, but at the same time, he’s entitled to his opinion.
“I think people should give the audience credit that they know that this was Gary going off on one. I think there was a lot of time to fill as we were waiting for the presentation. So all of them were peddling really fast. Gary said what he believes and, you know, this is not the first time he’s said this sort of thing. He’s well known for it. But no, we hadn’t expected it.
“We would have a word with him about not ever doing that again. But at the moment, honestly, he’s not part of our normal regular team. We’ve got the F.A. Cup. He’s not part of that team. But, yeah … So, would we hire him again? It depends on the circumstances, and look, I haven’t spoken to him. And so we’ll see.”