The Colombian contestant was already wearing this year’s Miss Universe crown when host Steve Harvey returned to announce on live television that he had mistakenly read from a cue card, and that the contestant from the Philippines was actually this year’s winner.
In the following moments, the crown was removed and placed on the head of a mystified Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines, other contestants rushed to console Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo of Colombia and a sheepish Harvey felt compelled to apologize on Twitter and to reporters assembled backstage.
“I feel horrible for this young woman,” he said.
Harvey said it was his mistake and that he would take responsibility for not correctly reading the card, which said that Wurtzbach was this year’s winner and Colombia was actually the first runner-up.
He held up the card for Fox network cameras to see up close. Talking with reporters afterward, Harvey and an executive for pageant owner WME-IMG called it human error.
“Nobody feels worse about this than me,” he said.
Wurtzbach appeared stunned as she walked to the front of the stage alongside the crown-wearing Arevalo before last year’s Miss Universe from Colombia removed the crown and placed it on Wurtzbach’s head.
Wurtzbach later said she felt conflicting emotions as the mistake happened: joy when she was told she had indeed won, concern for Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Aravelo and confusion at the whole situation.
Wurtzbach said she tried to approach Aravelo onstage afterward, but the Colombian was crying and surrounded by a crowd of women. She said she realized it was, “probably bad timing.”
“I did not take the crown from her,” Wurtzbach told reporters after the pageant concluded, saying she wished the contestant from Colombia well and hoped the Latin American community understands that “none of this was my fault.”
“None of this was done on purpose. It was an honest mistake,” she said, apologizing on behalf of the organization she now represents. She said Harvey told her afterward that she “should just enjoy the moment.”
Harvey also apologized on Twitter, but at first misspelled the home countries of both contestants before also fixing that. “I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia & Miss Philippines for my huge mistake,” he wrote. “I feel terrible.”
Donald Trump, who used to own the rights to Miss Universe, tweeted on Monday that “this never would have happened” under his watch. He softened his tone later that morning in an interview on NBC’s Today Show, calling Harvey a “great guy” who handled it well. Trump said if he were still in charge of the show, he would make the women share the title.
“I think I’d make them a co-winner. That’d be very cool,” he said.
He added: “Things happen. It’s live television,” he said.
Harvey, who was hosting the contest for the first time, said he reread the card and noticed it said “first runner-up” next to the Colombia contestant’s name before he asked producers if he had made a mistake.
An executive with pageant owner WME-IMG, Mark Shapiro, said Harvey caught the mistake and corrected it on his own, saying he wanted to make a wrong into a right.
“It was humiliating for the women. It was humiliating for him,” he told reporters after the pageant.
As all this was unfolding, a car drove up onto a sidewalk and struck dozens of people just outside the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino where the pageant was taking place. The Las Vegas Strip was soon jammed with ambulances and fire trucks, and authorities said at least 30 people were taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries and one person was killed.
Even before Sunday night’s oops moment, the pageant was involved in another controversy when a backlash against Trump led Univision to pull out of the broadcast and the businessman to sell it in September.
NBCUniversal and Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization until earlier this year. The real-estate developer offended Hispanics in June when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his Republican presidential run.
That led Spanish-language network Univision to pull out of the broadcast for what would have been the first of five years airing the pageants, and NBC to cut business ties with Trump.
The former star of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show sued both companies, settling with NBC in September, which included buying the network’s stake in the pageants.
That same month, Trump sold the organization that includes the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to entertainment company WME-IMG.
Shortly after Sunday night’s confusion, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted a message on his official account to Ariadna Gutierrez. “For us, you will continue being miss universe! We are very proud!”
Philippines presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda didn’t address the controversial win but said, “in bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country-as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve.”
The competition started with women representing 80 countries between the ages of 19 and 27. For the first time, viewers at home weighed in, with their votes being tallied in addition to four in-person celebrity judges.
It’s the third time a contestant from the Philippines has won the title. It could have been the second win in a row for Colombia.
The pageant’s contestant from the United States, Olivia Jordan, was named second runner-up.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
I feel bad for Miss Colombia, but also for Steve Harvey. Can you imagine the anguish he felt knowing he had to tell a young lady that due to his error, she was not the winner after all? He knew there would be a lot of flak about it but he stood there, mortified, and took full responsibility for his gaffe. The young lady should find herself receiving many offers but I am wondering why could there not be two winners? They are both so beautiful.
Justin W says
Oops. I feel bad for Miss Colombia. This is one of those things the host needs to make sure they have right before they say anything. I’m going to guess the Miss Universe pageant has a job opening for next year’s host.
pagent watcher says
I watched Miss Universe because of Steve Harvey. I think he did a great job, unfortunately the mix up at the end was tragic.
My comments are: the basic background music ( not the host performers) was BAD. And Stupid Hilton made the thing a political statement. Can’t we have ANY program without some stupid “celebrity” making it political. And, to think he has never done a day’s work in his life – he just goes on the Hilton name. What a loser he is.
Will I watch next year, probably not unless there is a host of Steve Harvey’s caliber.
FORGET THE PHILLIPINE AND COLOMBIAN CONTESRANTS. MISS USA OLIVIA JORDAN
HAD IT ALL OVER THEM. SHE WAS THE TRUE WINNER.
Anyone who has ever appeared in public at any live event knows how easy it is to err and particularly, how important it is to be focused. Even the pros get the “nerves” when the stakes are so high.
I feel first for the lovely lady from Columbia. While she understandably wept backstage she was affable onstage in the face of what was a totally unpredictable disappointment. She was twice deprived as she was denied the opportunity to offer her best to the winner from the perspective of anxious contestant and instead had to find the strength to be congratulatory as a winner unceremoniously dethroned. Ouch.
As for Steve Harvey, he is like all of us a mere mortal. His misstep took place on an international stage and who can doubt his sincere empathy for Miss Columbia. He is a genuine talent and he’ll recover. There was no malice.
There is always a chaos of sorts that accompanies live events but it is generally out of view of the audience. That’s what the pros strive for. They all know something will go wrong, they just do their best to make sure it is out of sight. Sometimes even the best trip up.
As we are tested, we are strengthened in the forge. I daresay that in the end, Miss Columbia will get more out of her first runner up position then she would otherwise have experienced without the mishap. With or without the error, fact is she didn’t win. She is in a position to make lemonade out of those lemons. Like you, i wish her the best.
It’s happened. This what happened here. Steve Harvey was honest about it. He said he was at fault for that. I hope we all learn from our mistake. It’s really good example for all of us. I like Steve Harvey for standing up to all the people. He did better than Hillary and Obama clubs. I’m for Steve Harvey. He is a real handsome man. I did not like Roslyn hosts at all. She’s terrible looking bum women.
Vote for Mr Donald Trump. He is a winner of U.S. of America and American people. Go Trump.
MY Vote is for Donald Trump
It is very unfortunate that this happened, as Miss Colombia was gorgeous and statuesque. I agree with Mr.Trump that both could have been co-winners. Despite Steve Harvey’s unintentional mistake, changing the winner, makes the pageant look very unprofessional, cheap and tacky. It was their mistake and they did not have the foresight to avoid embarrassing Miss Colombia from such a degrading gesture. Very badly handled!