Steve Harvey mixing up the winner of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant on Sunday had all the ingredients of an epic viral moment: A beauty pageant. An embarrassing gaffe. The agonizing scene when Harvey admitted he made a mistake. The look on Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez’s face when her crown was taken off and given to the real winner, Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach.
It was so perfect. Maybe … a little too perfect.
Immediately after Harvey announced Miss Colombia as the winner (she was actually the first runner-up), the video made its way around the world and #MissUniverse2015 was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. But social media lit up with the Internet’s second-favorite thing: Cries of a conspiracy theory.
Sample comment on Facebook from Raoul Martinez, a TV anchor in San Diego: “You guys buying this? I’m no conspiracy theorist, but this smells fishy to me. Sounds like a big PUBLICITY STUNT to get everyone talking about Miss Universe, when normally (let’s be honest, now!) NO ONE would be talking about Miss Universe.”
Then there were screenshots of the card Harvey was holding on TV, which he held up to prove he read the wrong name. People were dubious he could have really mixed up the two names.
— PIA LIBRE MO KAMI (@kpopbae) December 21, 2015
Similar thoughts were echoed by many — here are some of the other reasons some think it was planned all along.
1. Did the teleprompter say “Miss Colombia”?
Harvey took full responsibility for the mix-up on stage, apologizing to the audience. But according to the Miss Universe’s Snapchat, as Harvey left the stage, he said the teleprompter read “Miss Universe – Colombia.” Though that snap is now nowhere to be found, several (including USA Today) have screengrabs.
— Taylor Ramsey (@Taylornramsey3) December 21, 2015
However, later in the Snapchat story, Harvey is seen talking to the press and takes the blame again: He says he should have said “runner-up” instead of “winner” when making the announcement.
2. A ploy for attention for Miss Universe.
The Miss Universe pageant is hardly a ratings magnet — last year it garnered about 7.6 million viewers, its highest ratings in a decade, and the event is fairly under the radar in the United States. Plus, a Sunday night in December (five days before Christmas, no less) is hardly an ideal time to air any program aside from football. The pageant, airing on Fox for the first time, had to make a splash. And it did. A big one.
I generally don't buy into conspiracy theories, but this is the most attention the Miss Universe pageant has gotten since, well, ever.
— Les East (@EastAdvocate) December 21, 2015
The Miss Universe controversy was a total publicity stunt. Nobody was talking about the show until now…
— Kadin Zaffino (@KadinZaffino) December 21, 2015
Steve Harvey's mistake was all a conspiracy created for two purposes: Make Miss Universe relevant again. Make Steve Harvey relevant again.
— Pierce Edman (@piercedmn) December 21, 2015
3. A plot for attention for Steve Harvey.
Hmmm, what do you think Harvey will discuss on his syndicated talk show? And do you think that talk show might also remind people that he also hosts “Family Feud”?
But I bet Steve Harvey's agent is hella happy with all of this publicity
— Emily (@vokalized) December 21, 2015
Guaranteed Steve Harvey was paid generously to make that "mistake" on purpose. It's a publicity stunt. No one cares about Miss Universe.
— Cha(rizar)d Black (@Hoodie_Weather_) December 21, 2015
Steve Harvey has gotten more publicity than any of the contestants, the pageant itself, all his critics, and he got paid. He's still winning
— Imara | ♕ (@_KimyaLoder) December 21, 2015
4. … something involving Donald Trump.
It’s no secret the Miss Universe franchise has faced drama this year, when GOP presidential contender Donald Trump sold the pageant to WME/IMG. The pageant’s former home, NBC, cut all ties with Trump after his incendiary comments about immigrants, which also resulted in Univision dropping the pageant.
But some were convinced that Trump (even if he no longer owns the pageant) was still involved, somehow.
@kimroots I think it’s a conspiracy. Mistake opens door for Trump to buy back Miss Universe if his campaign falters.
— Dan J Kroll (@DanJKroll) December 21, 2015
I'm convinced that the Miss Universe mistake is just a publicity stunt, they needed more attention after leaving Trump out
— Aliah (@a4_adorable) December 21, 2015
I'm not even sure Trump still owns Miss Universe but given his past affiliation, doesn't this feel a little too much like a publicity stunt?
— Jen Lada (@JenLada) December 21, 2015
5. To cement a place in Miss Universe history.
Remember when Marisa Tomei won the best supporting actress Oscar for “My Cousin Vinny” and people still talk about how maybe the presenter read the wrong name off the teleprompter? Miss Universe just had its Marisa Tomei moment.
Call me a conspiracy theorist but miss universe did it on purpose. Way more people talking about it now. Big for the brand @darrenrovell
— Jack McLaughlin (@CaptnJack24) December 21, 2015