Jeremy Clarkson has been accused of “fabricating” his version of events after a Top Gear crew had to leave Argentina amid a row over a number plate which was interpreted by some as a reference to the Falklands War.
The country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alicia Castro, wrote in The Independent that the presenter had told an “exaggerated story”.
The BBC show’s crew had to leave Argentina after trouble erupted when it emerged they were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some suggested could refer to the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina over control of the territory.
Clarkson wrote in his Sunday Times column that he and his crew were attacked by an angry crowd armed with rocks and pickaxe handles, and he later told The Sun it was “the most terrifying thing” he had ever been involved in.
An executive producer denied the number plate was a “stunt” and the BBC said it was a coincidence and had not been chosen deliberately.
Ms Castro, referencing Clarkson’s column, wrote: “The presenter – in his column entitled ‘Make no mistake, lives were at risk’ – fabricates an exaggerated story. He describes being ambushed by a mob branding ‘pickaxes’.
“Later, switching narrative style, he recounts another scene: Clarkson claims that a mob was trying to burn the crew’s cars – which I understand did not actually happen – and he goes so far as to affirm that ‘one said they were going to barbecue us and eat the meat’.
“Clarkson’s imperialistic imagination is remarkably fertile: Argentina has never practised cannibalism. We do, it is true, eat a lot of beef. But we have never eaten a journalist.”
Ms Castro said the crew were given safe passage across the border into Chile by the authorities when locals’ anger threatened to boil over.
But she said: “As he ends a tale designed to portray Argentines as savages – and without acknowledging the security extended to him by the government of Tierra del Fuego – Clarkson reflects on what might have caused the protests.
“He reasons that the troubles were in no way linked to his provocative behaviour, but that they were in fact down to other causes: ‘We were English’, he concludes.”
Earlier this week, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman said the presenters had bought the car in the UK because it was the best available vehicle of its kind and no one had noticed the number plate.
Richard Hammond, another presenter on the show, has said the team “felt a real chill” when they realised the number plate could cause offence.
Speaking on BBC Radio 2, Hammond said it would have been “a terrible gag if we’d planned it – we wouldn’t joke about soldiers, we simply wouldn’t. That one was a genuine accident”.