Steve Harvey, Miss Universe, and Mistakes in the Internet Age

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Have you ever made a mistake that affected people at work? I’m willing to bet that you have. I have–I used to work in the Chemistry stockroom at a major university–I think that’s all I need to say. In some lines of work, meteorology, for example, mistakes are part of the day to day, and people don’t say much when something is flubbed a little bit. On the other hand, there are careers where mistakes cost lives–like surgery. Watch “Grey’s Anatomy” and you’ll know that, fiction aside, mistakes happen there, too. It’s rare, though, that a mistake at work will cause public ridicule.

Unless your job is hosting the Miss Universe pageant, I suppose.

The internet has been having a field day with the fact that Steve Harvey, the host of “Family Feud” and this year’s Miss Universe pageant, announced the wrong winner at the conclusion of the 2015 pageant that took place on  December 20 in Las Vegas. He awkwardly apologized on live television while last year’s Miss Universe took the crown and sash off of one stunned young woman, Miss Colombia, and then put it on another: Miss Philippines.

Entertainment Tonight has covered much of the aftermath, revealing that Steve Harvey is likely to continue hosting Miss Universe for several years, as stated in the contract that he signed just days before this year’s pageant. It’s also been revealed how he made his mistake–he didn’t rehearse who had won. He read the name off the cue card and then kept reading, seeing that his revealed winner was actually the first runner up. Harvey has reportedly apologized to both contestants. ET also revealed that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, has accepted her “destiny,” as she calls it, and loves that the entire world is talking about her country. She then took the high road and congratulated the new Miss Universe, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach from the Philippines.

That’s all well and good, but let’s take a step back and think about this in a different way–the power our mistakes have to stay with us.

For example, many of you listened to the first season of the sensationally popular podcast, “Serial,” I’m sure. There were many aspects of the story that host Sarah Koenig explored, but one of the most cut and dry seemed to be this–Adnan Syed’s original attorney, Cristina Gutierrez (no relation to Miss Columbia), allegedly messed up his case. Her “flub” (if we can call it that) was one of those that changed someone’s life. Rather than taking a crown and year of publicity and appearances away from someone, her mistakes took away someone’s freedom (maybe–one can never be sure, but other lawyers have been outspoken in the fact that, had Syed’s case been presented properly, he would have never been convicted in the first place). The unfortunate aspect of this part of the “Serial” story is that Gutierrez died in 2004, so she can neither explain what was going on in her head at the time nor apologize to Syed, his family, or Hae Min Lee’s (the victim’s) family.

And, like in the case of Steve Harvey, the internet (and other podcasters) are giving her a really hard time. In fact, her son has even made a statement to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun defending his mother and her actions because of all of the attention “Serial” pointed at his mother. But the internet is unforgiving, in both the cases of Cristina Gutierrez and Steve Harvey.

It begs the question—can mistakes ever be forgotten online, or will they always haunt us?

Well,  it certainly seems that the memes and videos surrounding Steve Harvey are here to stay. Poor Cristina Gutierrez—whether or not she flubbed Syed’s case, nothing can be changed now. Even if he successfully wins his appeal, he still lost at least 16 of his best years to a life sentence in a Baltimore prison. Now that “Serial” has brought her seemingly small murder case to the big time, her name will most likely be forever be tarnished in the internet’s eyes. These two examples show us that, while the internet may forgive (such as in the publishing of the apologies released by Harvey), it never forgets. Sure, Steve Harvey is a celebrity; but Cristina Gutierrez was not. She was a regular person who was thrust into the spotlight after her untimely death in a way that would likely embarrass her if she was alive to see it. It’s a good example to everyone else—watch what you say and do. In the age of the internet, you seemingly can’t take it back.

Amanda Gernentz Hanson
Amanda Gernentz Hanson is a Minnesota native living in Austin, Texas. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Hope College and a Master’s degree in Technical Communication from Minnesota State University, where her final project discussed intellectual property issues in freelancing and blogging. Amanda is an instructional designer full time, a freelance writer part time, and a nerd always. Contact Amanda at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.



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