The Time Steve Harvey's Racially Insensitive Jokes On His Talk Show Sparked Major Backlash

Steve Harvey has made his mark on the American entertainment industry by being a multi-faceted act. He's been a comedian, a talk show host, a New York Times bestselling author, and an entrepreneur. Despite his deviation from standup comedy, Harvey's penchant for humor has been constant throughout his career. However, the talk show host's jokes haven't always hit the right notes with his audiences. 

In 2017, Harvey sparked significant backlash when he made racially insensitive jokes on a January 6 episode of "The Steve Harvey Show." During the episode, Harvey made jokes about the titles of some self-help books, including "How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men." The host quipped that the book would be composed of a single page that read, "Excuse me. Do you like Asian men? No. Thank you," (via YouTube). 

Harvey further joked that if the book had targeted African American women instead, it would have included essentially the same thing, admitting, "I don't even like Chinese food." While his jokes drew laughter from Harvey's studio audience, they didn't age well outside it, adding to the many controversial Steve Harvey jokes that weren't received well by audiences.   

Members of the Asian community were hurt and disappointed by Steve Harvey's comments

Understandably, Steve Harvey's jokes struck a sour note with the Asian community. Several Asian public figures and social media users took to various platforms to detail why Harvey's jokes were unacceptable. Eddie Huang, who authored "Fresh off the Boat," wrote an essay for The New York Times that captures the Asian community's pain. 

Entitled "Hey, Steve Harvey, Who Says I Might Not Steal Your Girl?" his essay highlights the negative labels and discrimination that the Asian American community suffers. Huang writes that although he's come to terms with his uniqueness, "The one joke that still hurts, the sore spot that even my closest friends will press, the one stereotype that I still mistakenly believe at the most inopportune bedroom moments [...] is that women don't want Asian men."

Another vocal critic of Harvey was Karin Wang, the V.P. of Programs and Communications at Asian Americans Advancing Justice. In a statement to Page Six, Wang aired her frustrations with Harvey and pointed out that his jokes openly treated Asians with contempt. A blog, AngryAsianMan, also noted how unfair it was that Harvey could ridicule Asians with support from the audience.

Steve Harvey apologized for his jokes on social media

Despite the heavy backlash, it took Steve Harvey a while to grasp the impact of his insensitive jokes. Though a spokesperson apologized to BuzzFeed, the TV host did not immediately tender his own apology, arguing, "They're kinda beating me up on the internet right now for no reason. But, you know, that's life, ain't it?" (via Variety). 

However, after finally grasping the racial impact, Harvey apologized on X (formerly Twitter) 11 days after the controversial episode aired. In the January 17 post, he stated, "The humor was not intended with malice or disrespect whatsoever." Harvey's apology wasn't widely accepted as some X users expressed in their comments in response to it. 

One Asian American user wrote, "Not angry at you, just super disappointed to know that's how you feel about us. Been a fan 4 years." Another asserted, "Put yourself in our shoes: If a white comedian made the same joke using black men as the punchline, how would you feel?" Unfortunately for the comedian, these jokes did not fall under one of the controversial things everyone ignores about Steve Harvey.