Steve Harvey's Miss Universe 'Mistake' Almost Certainly Wasn't

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 23, 2015

At first glance, it feels like an exercise in futility to deconstruct the latest should-be non-story about a dumb incident at a meaningless event. The supposed “mistake” by professional game show host and card-reader Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe pageant. 

But since the story’s been “trending” on my Facef#ck page for two days now, and there are (admittedly funny) emerging memes, an outdated and archaic patriarchal beauty pageant that no one paid attention to is suddenly “relevant” again. 

This is not good for women, America or the world. So let’s lift the veil and expose it for the scam that is almost certainly is. 

For one thing, it amazes me that anybody who works in media, advertising, marketing or PR could think the Harvey “gaffe” was anything but a manufactured “error” to create buzz and social conversation. They know the underlying foundation of these television events points to hoax. 



1. This live contest is tightly scripted to fit a time slot. It's got to be done by 11 p.m. ET For beauty pageants, producers leave you hanging until after the last commercial break, with roughly two minutes remaining. This year, the winner was announced with about six minutes remaining. Good thing there was enough time to clear up their mistake!

2. Steve Harvey, like all TV hosts, is almost surely wearing a small ear monitor. If he made a mistake, it would've been blasted to him in a millisecond. 

3. Instead there were nearly two minutes of parading around poor Miss Colombia as the "winner" before the "mistake" was acknowledged and Miss Philippines given the crown.

4. Look at how perfectly those two minutes are choreographed. If you watch the YouTube video linked above, the congratulatory music sequence ends naturally andorganically as Harvey returns to the stage. As if it was timed. 

5. Steve Harvey is a professional game show host. He literally reads cards for his job on the now prurient "Family Feud." Did you see the card he was reading from? It couldn't have been more clear who won.

6. All day Monday, and now into Tuesday, the shallow, irrelevant Miss Universe pageant -- a sexist relic that should be relegated to the dumpster of history -- is all over the news and our public conversation. It drowns out the thousands of more important things we note, such as Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s jaw-dropping report that the Pentagon is openly defying President Obama and providing Syria’s Assad regime with intelligence and other support. 

Steve Harvey, on the other hand? I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. Harvey’s going to walk away from this bigger than ever. Wait and watch.  

The Miss Universe pageant has already announced Harvey will return for the 2016 pageant. Of course he will! The ratings next year will double. 

Harvey will go on an apology tour, earning sympathy and pity. He’s a likable guy. A few weeks before the 2016 pageant, he’ll go out again, appealingly self-deprecating and reminding us good-naturedly of his “gaffe,” and promising that if we watch this year, he’ll get it right.

And the saps and dipshits will then watch a live event that can’t be DVR’d and the advertisers will be very happy. 

But back to Steve Harvey. Steve Harvey just went from an American B- or C-lister to an internationally known entertainer. The Miss Universe event is an internationally aired event. Before Sunday’s pageant, nobody knew who Steve Harvey was outside the United States….until this “mistake.” Now Harvey’s got international recognition.

But isn’t the recognition for something bad? Doesn’t matter.

In a world of celebrity commodification, no one lasts long in disgrace nowadays. The media narrative demands a redemption story after humiliation. Steve Harvey’s turnaround will take nothing more than a few media mea culpas. 

And by making this about Harvey’s redemption, we take our eye off the ball: Beauty pageants suck. Particularly contests like Miss Universe, which has no talent category to even pretend it’s anything but a showcase of objectification.

So let’s show Sunday’s manufactured “mistake” for the sham that it almost certainly is, and do our best to defer people from playing along. Even if I’m wrong, the Miss Universe pageant needs to end, like other unhealthy vestiges of the 20th century. True beauty isn’t found in an ersatz TV contest, even if you can’t fast-forward through it.

24 comments about "Steve Harvey's Miss Universe 'Mistake' Almost Certainly Wasn't".
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  1. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, December 23, 2015 at 9:51 a.m.

    Tom, a most believable scenario that goes far to prove we are living in William Gibson's dystopian near future.

  2. John Parikhal from joint communications, December 23, 2015 at 10:01 a.m.

    Thanks for a very believable scenario, indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if this is true. Harvey is a canny self-promoter with a lot of talent. Unfortunately, I bet the contestants weren't in on it. 

  3. Erik Sass from none, December 23, 2015 at 11:48 a.m.

    It will be easy for Harvey to come back from this because of his folksy demeanor. People love to imagine celebrities are "just like them" and after all everyone makes "honest mistakes."

  4. Kevin Wilk from City of Walnut Creek, December 23, 2015 at 11:57 a.m.

    While Steve Harvey will undoubtedly be just fine, this was a big embarassment all around. I very highly doubt anything else written in this article is true.  This talk about it not really being a mistake is all "Conspiracy Theory" material, usually left to the folks who say things like: "We never landed on the moon," "9/11 was a US Government plot," and "Sandy Hook never happened."  People just have a hard time believing something surprising like this could actually happen without pre-approved oversight.  Get over it. Mistakes happen.  Even the producers and hosts who run shows are human.

  5. Claudia Caplan from MDC Partners, December 23, 2015 at 12:50 p.m.

    I think you may well be right but I disagree with your characterization of Steve Harvey.  When he had his morning radio show, it was hilarious. He is quick, witty and not a "card reader."

  6. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA replied, December 23, 2015 at 12:52 p.m.

    Kevin -- Did you know the now-prejorative term "Conspiracy Theory" was coined by the CIA in the mid-60's as a counter strategy to villify and marginalize reporters who were starting to question the Warren Report and "Official Story" of the JFK Assassination? So when you toss that term around, you're doing exactly what "they" want you to do.

    I'd also question the moral value of equating what happened on Sunday night with the "fake" moon landing, the 9/11 "Inside Job" and the Sandy Hook massacre. You're entering "The man doth protest too much territory" with that angle. 

  7. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA replied, December 23, 2015 at 12:56 p.m.

    Claudia, I actually like Steve Harvey. Not my intention to relegate him to simple "card reader," but merely point out that it is one PROFESSIONAL facet of his daily job, and thus you'd think he'd not blow it on a much larger stage. But I agree that he is quick-witted and funny. Has an easy charisma as well. All that being said.....back to paragraph one. 

  8. Don Klos from KMC, December 23, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    If this scenario were true and it got out it would ruin Harve's credibility. Why would he risk such a foolhearty scheme? Show me real proof before making it sound as though this is true. Circumstantial evidence at best with tons of presumption only makes sensational reporting designed to gain readership.

  9. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 23, 2015 at 2:28 p.m.

    Nonsense. (I'd say more, but that sums it up.)

  10. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA replied, December 23, 2015 at 2:36 p.m.

    Im surprised a college professor would think "Nonsense" is an appropriate counterpoint to everything written in this piece. Should we then assume that you favor beauty pageants for the edification of America and our women? 

  11. Robin Solis from replied, December 23, 2015 at 2:40 p.m.

    Jeeze, dude are you serious? You must have NOT read your own workplace's article. Burry your head in shame because you missed all the points.

  12. Robin Solis from replied, December 23, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.

    Maybe not then, but HE IS NOW was the point.

  13. Robin Solis from replied, December 23, 2015 at 2:45 p.m.

    Oh C'mon! What part of SHOW business, now in tough times with OTT competition, do you not get?

  14. Robin Solis from replied, December 23, 2015 at 2:47 p.m.

    If you can't do it, act pompous and teach it.

  15. Robin Solis from, December 23, 2015 at 2:55 p.m.

    IMO, more than likely this *was* staged for reasons stated above. Just timed and choreagraph just right. And the contestants they involved? They are considered chattle in the game. Could Trump be too stupid to mastermind this publicity stunt? Seriously, I am not sure.

  16. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, December 23, 2015 at 3:48 p.m.

    What, what ,what?!? Manufactured hype?!? At a BEAUTY PAGEANT?! Stop it!!! I'm speechless

  17. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, December 23, 2015 at 5:05 p.m.

    Tom, so well written and with great insights, both in short-term and long-term. Nice job reporting and analyzing.

  18. Chuck Lantz from, network, December 23, 2015 at 6:28 p.m.

    Oh, sure. You're trying to convince me that it wasn't an honest mistake?  What's next? ... maybe some equally outrageous claims that the contestant's physical appearance isn't 100% natural?  

  19. Gene Keenan from TCF, December 24, 2015 at 11:22 a.m.

    This isnt the first time Harvey has made a mistake so I don't find it unbelievable that this was accidental. I think you are also making a lot of assumptions that Miss Universe is some sort of top tier produced show: It isn't. Harvey was seen at the bar drinking just an hour before this gaffe. And he blew off rehearsals. So yeah, it was just a gaffe.

  20. Syndicated News from www.SyndicatedNews.NET, December 24, 2015 at 12:49 p.m.

    Having women parade around in bikini's is a leftover from the sixties seductive television meant to sell products. Shows like these helped rapists from the sixties to continue raping people for decades. In fact, their attorneys even helped protect them from facing the authorities. We have vestiges of this era still ruining lives today.

  21. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, December 24, 2015 at 1:18 p.m.

    Since a couple people have IM'd me on LinkedIn & elsewhere, offering a "LOL" or "nice one" on the "Facef#ck" insult, I owe it to my North Carolina pal PAUL FLEURET to admit I stole the term from him. 

  22. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, December 24, 2015 at 10:04 p.m.

    Tom Siebert,
    This is an awesome bit of writing in the normally arid domain of MediaPost Commentary.
    To challenge the status quo mentality (e.g, Donald Trump,is the joke that never ends!) by suggesting that we ignore it into oblivion, if we can't just put an end to the nonsense.
    The comment by John Parikhal is most astute and underscores the basic premise of an "end justifies the means" so-called "entertainment" industry.  
    The comment by Professor Ferguson demonstrates why the comment section is something of a "vast wasteland."

    Thanks Tom.  A great ride!  Your article is infinitely more plausible than the objectification outrage called Miss Universe.  Universe?  What about Miss Blackhole?  Or Miss ... WHAT.  Furthered the though from my elvish mind tonight!

    Oh! Bah! Humbug.

  23. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, December 24, 2015 at 10:07 p.m.

    I regret that the iPad Spell Check Elf wrote my last sentence.
    Now, we'll never know what I meant to say!
    Right, Siri?

  24. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, December 30, 2015 at 3:44 p.m.

    That's why it's called "Show Biz," why surprised or even appalled??? ;-)

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