LONDON - Television presenter Jeremy Clarkson said that he had received a final warning from Britain's publicly-funded broadcaster, the BBC, over using racist language while filming "Top Gear," one of the world's most popular TV programs.
Clarkson, 54, was called before BBC bosses this week after the Mirror newspaper reported that he was heard using the word "ni---r" as he recited an old version of the rhyme "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe" to choose between cars in filming two years ago.
The newspaper did not say how it got hold of the footage, which was not aired, but the revelation led to calls for Clarkson to resign or be sacked from the BBC, which is funded by a license fee paid by all UK households that own a television.
The presenter, known for his humorous but blunt style, apologized in a video on Twitter on Thursday, saying that he tried to avoid the racist expression by mumbling over that part of the rhyme in two takes and replacing it with "teacher" in a third.
But, in a regular column in the Sun newspaper on Saturday, Clarkson admitted that he was on his final warning from the BBC after the latest controversy to hit the outspoken but highly profitable presenter.
"I've been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked," wrote Clarkson, insisting that he had not used the "n" word, which he found "extremely distasteful."
"It's funny. I've always thought I'd be sacked for something I said. Not for something that, actually, I didn't say."
Series of controversies
The furor comes just days after Top Gear producers apologized for a "light-hearted" joke by Clarkson in Myanmar and Thailand, in which he referred to a "slope" on a bridge as an Asian man crossed a makeshift structure built by the presenters.
The show prompted complaints of racism and producer Andy Wilman apologized, saying that they were unaware it was a racially offensive term for Asians used in countries like Australia and the United States and regretted any offense caused.
The BBC has regularly downplayed controversies over Clarkson's comments through the 26-year history of "Top Gear," one of its best-selling shows that has aired in 214 countries, helping make Clarkson, a journalist by background, into a global celebrity.
"Top Gear" was named by Guinness World Records as the world's most widely watched factual TV program in 2013, and its popularity has led to spin-offs, including video games and a magazine.
But Clarkson's strong views have pitched him up against politicians, national governments, environmental groups, car companies and communities across Britain over the years. Facebook has an "I Hate Jeremy Clarkson" page.
A BBC statement on Thursday said the corporation had spoken to Clarkson and made "absolutely clear" the standards expected.