Jeremy Clarkson has apologised for saying that striking workers “should be shot”.
The Top Gear host – who made his comments during BBC1’s The One Show last night – said that he did not intend the remarks to be taken seriously.
His words had been widely condemned throughout the day by politicians and union leaders.
The BBC also offered an apology for the remarks and said the item “wasn’t perfectly judged”.
By this afternoon the BBC had received more than 4,700 complaints about the comments.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband were among those who took a dim view of the words uttered by the controversial TV presenter and columnist.
Clarkson said yesterday: “I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously, as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m happy to apologise for it alongside them.”
The BBC said: “The One Show is a live topical programme which often reflects the day’s talking points.
“Usually we get it right, but on this occasion we feel the item wasn’t perfectly judged. The BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused.” Clarkson made the gaffe as he appeared on the show on the evening of Britain’s biggest public sector strikes in 30 years.
He said of the strikers: “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.
“I mean, how dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living.”
The broadcaster’s comments sparked hundreds of angry comments on Twitter.
His apology followed mounting pressure and condemnation of his views. The BBC had already made one apology at the end of the offending show last night.
David Cameron, who is a personal friend of Clarkson, dismissed his comments as “silly”.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning programme, the Prime Minister said: “It was obviously a silly thing to say and I am sure he didn’t mean that.”
Mr Miliband said the comments were “absolutely disgraceful and disgusting”.
He said: “He obviously does not understand the lives of the people who were going out on strike yesterday.”
Unison called on the corporation to sack the presenter and earlier today said that it was seeking legal advice over the “appalling” comments.
The union, which represents more than a million public sector workers, said it was considering whether the comments should be referred to the police.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “An apology is not enough – we are calling on the BBC to sack Jeremy Clarkson immediately. Such disgusting statements have no place on our TV screens.
“Whilst he is driving round in fast cars for a living, public sector workers are busy holding our society together.
“They save others’ lives on a daily basis, they care for the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly.
“They deserve all our thanks – certainly not the unbelievable level of abuse he threw at them.”