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Jeremy Clarkson's 'Top Gear' suspension divides viewers around world

Jeremy Clarkson's 'Top Gear' suspension has viewers divided over BBC host's controversial past

Viewers are divided over whether "Top Gear" co-host Jeremy Clarkson should be put back in the driver's seat — or just be driven somewhere far, far away.

The BBC this week abruptly suspended the hotheaded Clarkson after an unspecified "fracas" that, according to reports, involved fisticuffs with one of his producers.

The company also dropped this week's telecast of "Top Gear," a one-hour series about cars that's one of the most popular shows in Britain and is shown around the world, including in the U.S. on BBC America. (Another version of the show, with the same title but different hosts, airs on History.)

Outrage quickly spilled out across the Internet, where a blogger who goes by the handle Guido Fawkes started a petition on Change.org to reinstate Clarkson. By midday Wednesday, that petition had been signed by more than 560,000 people and had reportedly led to service disruptions at the Change.org website. 

But Clarkson's abrasive personality has made him a lot of enemies as well. He has been an equal-opporunity offender, making remarks that many deemed bigoted and tasteless about the Welsh, Germans, Indians and more. After he was caught seeming to utter the N-word on-camera, the BBC in 2014 gave him a "final warning" to mend his behavior.

As one Twitter user wrote, in a typical reaction to the petition, "So many galvanised into action so quickly for such a worthless cause."

It's a cultural split that many Americans will recognize in similar flare-ups over Paula Deen and other celebrities who commit gaffes. Clarkson has become a martyr of political correctness to some; to others, he's a symbol of white-male entitlement run amok.

What do you think of the Clarkson case?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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