Was Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe Flub Staged? If Not, It Should Have Been

Skepticism abounds after error sparks publicity coup

Headshot of David Griner

Steve Harvey and Miss Universe—two people you likely weren't thinking about Sunday afternoon—abruptly became the Internet's top topics Sunday evening.

Harvey spectacularly botched the announcement of the winner, accidentally giving Miss Colombia the crown. Then, at the most awkward moment possible (the new Miss Universe's celebratory wave to the crowd), he whipped the audience into a hooting frenzy with the words "I have to apologize," noting that the real winner was Miss Philippines.

The whole scenario, frankly, felt like a twist from WWE's WrestleMania rather than from a hyperproduced global pageant. 

So was it scripted? A manufactured moment of controversy to push Miss Universe to the top of social trending topic lists? And if so, who would have been in on it?

Even Harvey's first attempt at an apology—a tweet that misspelled both Colombia (as Columbia) and Philippines (as Philippians)—felt like it was taken from a page in some modern PR playbook. A quickly deleted tweet that fanned the flames further? Who could resist?

Admittedly, there are several reasons it's unlikely to be fake, the most prominent being the enduring smear it has likely placed on both the pageant and Harvey's hosting abilities.

But many still seem skeptical (and understandably so).

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."