Steve Harvey says he was just talking sports trash on Wednesday when he told a radio caller from Flint, Mich., to “enjoy your nice brown glass of water.”
He and the man were bantering about the NBA finals on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” when Harvey used the water dig as a parting shot.
But the mayor of Flint and others slammed Harvey for being insensitive about a tragic situation.
His remarks came on the same day Michigan’s attorney general Bill Schuette charged two high-ranking state health officials in the fourth round of criminal charges related to the drinking water crisis.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, sent a letter to Harvey on Thursday asking him to apologize.
“As Mayor of the City of Flint, and someone who has been on your show and spoken with you personally about the Flint Water Crisis, I was deeply saddened by your comments about our city,” she wrote.
“While I feel it was not meant to be an intentional hurt or insult against the citizens of this community, it was.
“We are still going through many hardships and challenges caused by the poisoning of our city. To make a joke out of a tragedy such as this was in very poor taste, especially coming from someone of your stature.
“While we are making progress in replacing lead tainted service lines, we still have to use filters and remain on bottled water. As Mayor, I would appreciate, on behalf of the citizens of this community, a public apology. I would love to sit and discuss with you the status of where we are today.”
Nine-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, who has become one of the most recognizable faces of the tragedy, also asked Harvey to apologize in a video posted to Twitter.
Mari, known as “Little Miss Flint,” appeared on Harvey’s TV show last year when the comedian highlighted the issue.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Harvey was talking to a man who said he was from Flint about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals. Harvey is a Cavaliers fan.
“You from Flint? … That’s why y’all ain’t even got clean water. When was the last time you touched water and it didn’t have lead in it?” Harvey reportedly told the man according to listeners’ descriptions posted online.
Harvey’s co-hosts told him to “reel it in.”
“I wasn’t talking about the city of Flint, I was talking about him,” he can be heard saying in one recording. “He going to call in, say Cleveland don’t deserve jack, and he over there bathing in all that silver water.”
Realizing the man was still on the line, Harvey finished up by saying, “one more thing. Enjoy your nice brown glass of water.”
At that point one of Harvey’s co-hosts jumped in, telling the caller, “on behalf of ‘The Steve Harvey Morning Show’ and Steve Harvey in particular, we apologize, OK, for our boss. He’s a very, very sore loser.”
People pummeled Harvey on social media.
The comedian defended his comments in a statement to NBC-25 in mid-Michigan.
“This morning callers and I were cracking jokes about the Cleveland Cavaliers loss to the Golden State Warriors. I’m a huge Cavs fan.
“The caller and I were talking trash about our teams and cities. ‘SIMPLY TRASH TALKING ABOUT SPORTS’.
“I made a joke directed at him, as he is from Flint, a city for which I have great affection and respect.
“So much so that I devoted a full hour on my daytime talk show to raising awareness for the Flint water crisis.
“I also pressed then-candidate, Hilary Clinton, to offer solutions to what I called one of the great catastrophes of modern times.”
Harvey noted that “the caller laughed as my joke was taken in the context it was offered. Any attempts to craft this into anything more serves no one.”