A source told The Sun: “Jeremy had a massive bust-up with one of the male show producers and he ended up smacking him in the face. Everyone was absolutely stunned.
“It was all over a catering issue. Jeremy just saw red and hit the assistant producer, who he blamed for not having organised the food.”
The Daily Mirror quoted a source saying: “They came to the end of filming after a long day and Jeremy discovered that no food had been laid on. He just saw red and hit the assistant producer, who he blamed for not having organised the food. He snapped.”
A source close to Clarkson insisted he was innocent and that “he didn’t punch anyone”.
Filming for this Sunday’s episode, which should have taken place on Wednesday, was cancelled and no more episodes will be broadcast while an investigation is being carried out.
If the complaint against Clarkson is upheld, the BBC will have little choice but to sack him, as it was made clear to him last year that he was on a final warning after a racism row after claims that he used the n-word during filming.
It was just one among many racist and xenophobic comments over the years, and critics had complained that Clarkson was being given special treatment by the BBC because of the immense profitability of Top Gear, which is sold to 214 territories and is the most popular factual television programme in the world.
Oisin Tymon has been with Top Gear for a decade
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation.
“No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”
Clarkson refused to comment on the incident as he arrived at his London home on Tuesday night, but later made light of the incident in a Twitter exchange with his co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond.
Meanwhile Clarkson’s daughter Emily joked that she needed the BBC to give him his job back because he had started cooking.
The BBC is understood to have banned all staff from talking about the incident which, unlike Clarkson’s previous gaffes, involves another member of staff and could result in a grievance procedure.
Although the BBC owns the format of Top Gear after buying the rights in 2012 from Clarkson and his executive producer Andy Wilman, Clarkson is the undoubted star and it is unclear whether Hammond and May would carry on without him if he were to be sacked.
Within minutes of news of his suspension breaking, fans of Clarkson had started an online petition to have him reinstated. More than 130,000 people have so far signed the petition.
This Sunday’s episode of Top Gear should have featured Gary Linkeker as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, but Lineker and the studio audience with tickets for filming at Top Gear’s base at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey were told yesterday they would not be needed.
Clarkson has been a fixture on Top Gear since 1988, but it was following the BBC’s decision to relaunch the show in 2002, in a brash new format with Clarkson as the only presenter to survive the reboot, that he transformed himself into a worldwide star.
But controversy has never been far away. Last year alone, he was forced to apologise after mumbling the n-word as he recited a nursery rhyme during filming; he was found to have breached Ofcom guidelines after referring to an Asian man as a “slope”, and caused a riot in Argentina by driving a Porsche with a number-plate that appeared to refer to the Falklands War.
Clarkson had to flee Argentina after driving this car through Patagonia
He said last year: “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked. And even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with that hanging over his head.”
Lord Hall, the BBC director-general, was said to have intervened to save Clarkson after the n-word row, but Danny Cohen, the BBC’s head of television, has previously insisted Clarkson was not too valuable to sack, claiming:
“It’s like football clubs: no one is bigger than the club. There’s no one show or person that’s bigger than the BBC, and that’s made clear to anyone who works there.”
As recently as last month Clarkson had a verbal spat with Michael Dugher, the shadow transport minister, who had said he did not like Top Gear. Clarkson replied: “Good. We don’t make it for people who wear pink ties.”
BBC bosses told Clarkson off for supping a gin and tonic while behind the wheel of a pick-up truck
November 2008: Lorry drivers
With reference to Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, Clarkson joked on the show about how lorry drivers “murder prostitutes”
February 2009: Gordon Brown
The then prime minister was dismissed as a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” during a press conference in Australia.
October 2009: Black Muslim Lesbians
Clarkson said that the BBC was obsessed with hiring black, Muslim lesbians to counter the number of white heterosexuals in its ranks.
July 2010: Burkas and lingerie
During a Top Gear discussion on distractions while driving: “Honestly, the burka doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red g-string and stockings.”
August 2010: Special needs
Clarkson referred to a Ferrari as ‘special needs’ and a ‘simpleton’ as a way of giving it a bad review.
Clarkson sparked a diplomatic incident, and was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador
Viewers complained about Clarkson’s provocative remarks concerning the country’s clothing, trains, food and history.
Clarkson was forced into a apology after appearing to mumble the word as he sang a nursery rhyme on Top Gear.
Ofcom said he had breached their guidelines, when he referred to an Asian person as a ‘slope’,
Jeremy Clarkson caused offence this time by driving through Argentina using a number plate apparently referring to the Falklands War.