It might be hard for folks to recall this distant memory, but there was once a time when Steve Harvey wasn’t taking one of the biggest ‘L’s’ in the culture.
Whether it’s the troubles of fame, an unchecked ego or something more, whatever the reason, it drove away one of our most beloved Kings of Comedy—and now it is costing him big.
According to the Daily Mail, several of Harvey’s ventures are now flopping thanks to his newfound unpopularity since visiting with President Donald Trump shortly after the inauguration. Since then, ratings for both his TV and radio shows have severely plummeted, and his NBC variety show “Little Big Shots” has dropped by half.
“Meeting with Donald Trump was the worst mistake of my life,” Harvey recently admitted on his radio show. Perhaps this might be the most humble statement he has given in quite some time.
While some may be ready to hit cancel on Steve Harvey, we can all admit that this is the type of downfall that happens to many of our Black comedians looking for a more mainstream come-up (side-eyes Eddie Murphy, D.L. Hughley, etc). As Steve began hosting his own talk show and two game shows simultaneously–and picking up some Daytime Emmy awards along the way–his massive ego took him to even lower places, like Trump Tower, and the rest is history.
Growing up, Harvey was the funny man I used to watch on his popular sitcom of the same name. From the iconic Kings of Comedy and some successful Black family comedies in between, he felt unstoppable. And then someone was foolish enough to convince him that his comedy qualified him to give advice on things like dating and relationships, and things went south from there.
When Steve released his 2009 #1 New York Times Best Seller, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and decided to follow-up with a series of films based on the book, it became clear that he was in over his head. A man with two divorces under his belt and on his third marriage was now trying to mansplain to women how not to be single. And while none of this advice was sound, he went as far as to specifically market his off-messaging toward Black women who never asked or needed his opinion to begin with.
But throughout the years, Steve hasn’t appeared to evolve with the rest of the culture. What’s more is that he has held onto his unprogressive, stereotypical, and sexist views without any filter. While promoting his book in an interview with Joy Behar, Harvey once blamed the issue on cheating squarely on women.
“Why do men cheat?…It’s really because there are so many women out there willing to cheat with them,” he said.
On his own talk show earlier this year, the comedian had to release a public apology after insensitive jokes about Asian men, and the absurdity that any woman would find them desirable. “You like Asian men? I don’t even like Chinese food…I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce,” he quipped.
While on “The View” he made anti-gay, exclusionary remarks that “there isn’t a real man living that can live without one of you. He does not exist. We have to have you.” And when it comes to reinforcing rape culture, Steve once told a female caller during a “Good Morning America” segment who asked how to politely turn down a man, that “you cannot stop a guy. Once a guy is interested in you, we lock in. We don’t care what you do.” It is these narrow-minded and toxic POVs that have done nothing to advance our community’s new wave of inclusion and acceptance.
But there are also remarkable things that Steve Harvey has done and continues to do for the community. His Dreamers Academy has given thousands of dollars in scholarships and have connected hundreds of disadvantaged youth with mentors and programing. While others often talk a lot about charity, Harvey has shown a level of charitable compassion that can’t be denied regardless of his other glaring shortcomings.
This is the time for a sober intervention and serious straight talk. Steve, if you are willing to humble yourself, admit your faults, and get with the times, you might be able to salvage what’s left of your career.
At this point, no new show or self-help book can bring you back to the community. Only your sincere interest in reshaping your public image will. Get it together man, come home.
Ernest Owens is the Editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly. He has written for USA Today, NBC News, BET, HuffPost and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.