Steve Harvey Explains His Infamous Miss Universe Mistake: ‘It Was Four Minutes of Pure Hell’

Laughing it off and living it down? Steve Harvey appeared on the Monday, December 5, episode of The Tonight Show and broke down the Miss Universe mistake he’ll never forget, giving host Jimmy Fallon a step-by-step replay of how he announced the wrong winner of the beauty pageant last year.

In December 2015, Harvey, 59, hosted the annual Miss Universe pageant, and Harvey mistakenly announced Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutiérrez, as Miss Universe 2015. The Family Feud host then came back on stage and corrected the error, giving the crown to the real winner, Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, as stunned contestants and audiences looked on.

“It didn’t happen that quick,” Harvey said to Fallon. “It wasn’t that quick. It was four minutes of pure hell.”

Miss Colombia 2015, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo, looks on as Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega crowns Miss Philippines 2015, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, the new Miss Universe during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on December 20, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Miss Colombia 2015, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo, looks on as Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega crowns Miss Philippines 2015, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, the new Miss Universe during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant at the Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The comedian said he mixed up the names of the winner and the first runner-up because he was following instructions from a producer and didn’t realize the massive mistake until he got backstage. “It was crazy, man, because, look, I’m a smart guy. I can read,” he said. “I read the teleprompter, but the guy in my ear said, ‘Read the next name,’ and the teleprompter just said, ‘And the new 2015 Miss Universe is,’ and the next he said was, ‘Read the next name now, now.’ I said, ‘Miss Colombia.’ Crowd goes crazy. He goes, ‘Great job, Steve.’ I go in the back four minutes later, I hear a lot of words that you can’t say on TV. ‘Explicit, explicit, explicit,’ and then he said, ‘We said the wrong name.’” 

According to Harvey, organizers wanted to issue a correction to the media the next day, but the Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance author wanted to fix his mistake right away. “It was the most gut-wrenching walk I’ve ever had in my life,” Harvey said about going back out on stage to admit his embarrassing error and take back the crown from Miss Colombia. “I was brought up that way, man, to kind of just face whatever there is, so I went out and dealt with it.”

Despite bungling the winner last year, it seems all is forgiven. Harvey will be returning to host the 2016 Miss Universe pageant — which is being held in the Philippines — on January 30, 2017 on Fox. 

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Want stories like these delivered straight to your phone? Download the Us Weekly iPhone app now!