By now you’ve seen the awkward, uncomfortable, embarrassing finish to Sunday night’s Miss Universe pageant on Fox. If you haven’t, here it is. Watch, and we’ll discuss:
Yes, emcee Steve Harvey experienced what we TV people call a nightmare moment: he announced the wrong winner. It’s why we sometimes look twice at our script when there’s breaking news: just to make sure. I’ve told the story about the late Channel 3 newsman Roy Morris, who, when handed the bulletin about President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, asked his producer on live TV, “Is this for real?”
Harvey, a gifted host, has surely never made a mistake of this magnitude. I mean, holy cow! They had to take the crown and Miss Universe sash off poor Miss Columbia: on live TV! The actual winner, Miss Philippines, was understandably unsure when Harvey corrected himself. She wandered out in a daze as if to say, “Are you really, really sure about this?” It took a minute or so until she could force a smile, while watching another girl’s dream come crashing down. Believe me, this moment will be seen on YouTube by far more people than saw it live on Fox.
Harvey is catching a lot of grief on social media, because in this YouTube era, no mistake goes unnoticed. From the smallest town, to worldwide events like Miss Universe, if you screw up, the world will see it a few seconds later. It’s hard for me to pick on Steve Harvey, because my YouTube moment could happen any day now. The web is filled with TV newspeople doing or saying something stupid when they don’t know the camera is on. I have made PLENTY of mistakes knowing full well I was on live TV or radio.
For instance: when I first started in radio at age 16, someone at WEPG in South Pittsburg thought I could be trusted to read the local news. After I pronounced the word “indicted” wrong, they weren’t so sure. How was I supposed to know the “c” was silent? I never made that mistake again. I was too busy making new ones!
Like the time I emceed a big event at UTC, honoring the famed musician Dr. Monte Coulter. All the town’s bigwigs were present. I was trying to make my mark in Chattanooga, and wanted to impress the Chamber of Commerce, the Holmbergs of Chattanooga newspaper fame, and others. It was my job to make the big announcement, introducing Dr. Coulter. I thought I was “big time” enough to ad lib it: I’ve never liked reading from a script. So there I was, winging it with way more confidence than I deserved. When it came time to say his name, I said, “Let’s give a big welcome for the great Monte Irvin!” As everyone stared at me, I realized: Monte Irvin was a baseball player. I was supposed to say Monte Coulter. For some reason, those folks rarely called on me to emcee anything again.
I even have my own beauty pageant blunder, although it wasn’t televised. Still, I’ll never live it down, because I still see the beautiful lady it involved. I was emceeing the Miss Chattanooga pageant back in the 1980s, and as each contestant paraded around in a swimsuit, I read about her hair color, hobbies, and so on.
Keep in mind that this is not the favorite part for these girls: most are uncomfortable strutting around with little clothing. So the least I could do is make it easier for them, right?
A lovely young miss entered the stage, and I announced her name and her school. She got a round of applause and smiled. That’s when I got mixed up, and told the audience she had green hair and brown eyes. Suddenly, the audience began to laugh. At first I couldn’t figure out why, and then someone pointed out I said she had “green hair.”
Now here’s the kicker: the young lady was deaf. She had no idea what I had said. All she knew was, she was on stage in a swimsuit, and the audience was LAUGHING! Of course, most of them didn’t know about her hearing impairment. She looked at me as if to say, “What is going on?” Eventually someone explained it to her, we had a laugh about my mistake, and we’ve been great friends ever since.
So, Steve Harvey, I know how you feel. My heart goes out to you (and to Miss Colombia). Nobody’s perfect, and when you make a mistake these days, there’s nowhere to hide.
Harvey admitted his blunder, and took full responsibility. At least he didn’t say she had green hair.