Howie Mandel Apologizes for Insensitive Eating Disorder Comments: “I Made Light of Bulimia”

Howie Mandel
America's Got Talent judge Howie Mandel apologized on Tuesday, Aug. 25, after his ill-conceived joke about eating disorders during the show's live broadcast sparked backlash on social media. Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Sowie, says Howie. America's Got Talent judge Howie Mandel apologized on Tuesday, Aug. 25, after his ill-conceived joke about eating disorders during the show's live broadcast sparked backlash on social media.

Mandel, 59, praised fan favorite Stevie Starr — "The Regurgitator" — a professional who swallows objects whole and well, regurgitates the items. Only Mandel's praise fell flat.

"This would probably come out wrong," Mandel told Starr during the broadcast. "But you, sir, make bulimia entertaining."

Immediately, fans reacted with outrage, lashing out against Mandel for his insensitive comments. Mandel caught wind of the social media whirlwind and delivered his apology on-air several acts later.

"I just want to take a second to apologize," the comic noted. "I made a comment earlier, it’s live television, I wasn’t thinking. I made light of bulimia, which is a very serious eating disorder and mental health issue. I deal with mental health all the time, and I did something stupid. I should never make light of it. I apologize to anybody that was offended. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes."

He later took to Twitter to reiterate his apology.

Mandel has been open about his personal mental health issues, including a nearly debilitating fear of germs as he suffers from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). In an interview with 20/20 in 2009, Mandel detailed his struggle.

"I'm always on the verge of death in my head," he shared. "In my mind [my hand] is like a petri dish. … Otherwise I would spend the day, as I have in the past in my life in the men's room rubbing and scrubbing and scalding… The biggest fear I have is being triggered. And if I'm triggered and I get some sort of weird thought in my head that can't go, then my day is, is stopped. My life stops."

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