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Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe Gaffe

Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe Gaffe

Lessons from the mindboggling mistake heard around the world.


Awkward!” screamed the New York tabloid headline last Monday, the morning after a surprise turnabout finale in the Miss Universe Pageant. In what has already become a legendary example of prime time media gaffes, emcee Steve Harvey misread the card and announced that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, was the new Miss Universe.

But just a few minutes into her reign, as Ms. Gutierrez held her bouquet and blew kisses at the audience, a $30,000 blue diamond and topaz tiara on her head, the tables turned.

An embarrassed Harvey returned to center stage to walk back his pronouncement. "Okay folks ... I have to apologize," he told a confused crowd in Las Vegas. "The first runner-up is Colombia. Miss Universe 2015 is . . . Philippines!”

With screams of surprise from the audience, Miss Colombia appeared cool (some say frozen) as the tiara was plucked from her head and placed atop that of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines, who appeared in a state of utter disbelief.

With the audience still in an uproar, Harvey said, “This is exactly what's on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card."

Millions of TV viewers and the thousands in the live audience at the Planet Hollywood Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas were flummoxed by the Miss Universe switcheroo. After all, even in Vegas, what were the odds that the simple reading of the name of Miss Universe would get botched, the new queen so mortifyingly dethroned, through no fault of her own?

The hounds of social media were instantly unleashed, ridiculing and mocking the blunder. Mr. Harvey was not helped when he personally rushed to apologize on his Twitter feed and misspelled both Colombia and the Philippines in the initial tweet. Ouch. That tweet was soon deleted and replaced with a fresh apology, correctly spelled: “I want to apologize emphatically to Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia. This was a terribly honest human mistake. I am so so regretful. – Steve Harvey (@IamSteveHarvey)

Jokes at Mr. Harvey’s expense mushroomed, including tweets such as “Hi Mom!” – Steve Harvey saying hi to his Dad. In addition to other snarky comments, someone posted an endless rerun video loop of last year’s Miss Universe (who was Miss Colombia) removing the crown from Ms. Gutierrez.

Some cynics speculated that the whole thing was a planned prank to shore up the ratings for an event many people find sexist and way past its societal sell-by date. But as the #SteveHarvey hashtags were hot, the torrents of mockery rained down, showing how eager people are to pile on during any media feeding frenzy.

So what’s Jewish about any of this? One thing is that in the Torah, we see how often a person’s fortunes can suddenly rise or fall. Joseph was a prisoner – and then suddenly viceroy of Egypt. Esther was an unknown Jewish orphan and suddenly, queen of the Persian empire. Sudden and dramatic changes in a person’s status and stature are character tests. We may not have wanted them, but there they are, with God waiting to see what we will do with the opportunity.

Ms. Gutierrez was Miss Universe – the pinnacle of success in her 22-year-old life. But then she lost it in a minute. Media reports are that not only she, but political leaders in her country, have taken this episode very hard, and consider her to be the rightful Miss Universe and what happened a slam against all Colombian women.

In an era where people love to play the blame game, he rushed to accept responsibility.

Miss Philippines, for her part, merely referred to her sudden coronation this way: “It was a very unconventional crowning.” Will Ms. Gutierrez stay angry and bitter? Or will she play it smart and just take the book deal and look at the bright side?

Also, today our every move might be caught on camera whether we know it or not. But Judaism believes that God is always watching our actions. One day, we’ll all be watching the movie of our lives as it has played out, including all the cringe-worthy moments we wish we could take back. Steve Harvey’s mistake will not be one of those, because in an era where people love to play the blame game, he rushed to accept responsibility. His fans took notice. One posted on his Facebook page: “Thanks for being a real man! You took responsibility for your mistake. It could have happened to anybody!”

I was happy to discover what Steve Harvey wrote on his Twitter bio. It reads: Proud husband, father, comedian, daytime show host, philanthropist and author. God has blessed me with more than I could have asked for! A person who includes God’s blessings in his Twitter bio is a person who won’t need much recovery time from a media firestorm at his expense.

December 22, 2015

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 14

(11) Rachel, December 28, 2015 5:10 AM

Legal consequences

I am kind of shocked that some commenters think the matter should have been handled privately. Just as with sports, pageants have rules and the emcee must follow them. I am sorry for his mistake and the pain it caused Miss Colombia, but this was the correct legal outcome.

I hope future emcees are given practice opening prop envelopes and reading the correct order, e.g. The 1st runner up is Miss Mars, and Miss Saturn is the new Miss Universe.

(10) Mat Sweetwood, December 25, 2015 6:11 AM

Was the goof a PR Stunt?

Written by me, a recent visitor to Aish HaTorah and a member of Aish Center, NYC.

(9) Sylvia Kimmel, December 25, 2015 6:10 AM

Miss Columbia's gracious comments.

Not sure where I saw it, but her remarks about the incident were very understanding and kind to
Mr. Harvey.

Please find and publish that as a followup.

(8) pbm basaiawmoit, December 25, 2015 2:00 AM

Hearing the replies by the three on the same question posed, I concluded that Miss Philippines should get the crown. When Steve Harvey instead announced Miss Columbia as the new Miss Universe, it was unbelievable at least to me and suspected of 'match fixing'. However glad and bold of Harvey to rectify the human blunder in a minute or two. Unfortunate and embarrassing too for the one minute Miss Universe 2015 experience of Miss Columbia. Yes Miss Philippines is the deserving winner and all is well that ends well.

(7) Anna, December 25, 2015 1:27 AM

Of course, none of the sneerers ever make mistakes, It's nice to know that the world has so many people who have never done anything wrong.

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