The popular talent show ‘America’s Got Talent’ was hit with controversy on Tuesday night, as judge Howie Mandel made a joke about fellow judge Sofia Vergara’s recent split from Joe Manganiello.
During the live episode, young ventriloquist Brynn Cummings was looking for a boyfriend for her puppet Penelope. Mandel then suggested, “If you’re looking for eligible bachelors, you should’ve talked to Sofia, because she’s in the market right now.” Vergara responded by reaching her arms in the air and cheering, causing host Terry Crews to quickly shut down the conversation.
Critics quickly took to the internet to express their outrage, claiming the joke was insensitive and too soon for the newly-divorced couple. In response to the backlash, Mandel spoke to Extra, saying, “People thought that was mean and insensitive. If you watched Sofia, she screamed after she came over to me and thought it was funny. She said, ‘Yes,’ so she’s got a great sense of humor, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt a fellow — a friend first, and a fellow co-worker.”
Mandel went on to express his admiration for the 45-year-old Modern Family star, stating, “She really doesn’t [need my help]. I believe that she’ll be fending them off. I mean, she is a great friend, a brilliant person, businessperson, a powerhouse, an amazing sense of humor. She checks every box, so whoever ends up with Sofia is going to be really, really lucky.”
Mandel jokingly added that he was looking for a match for Vergara by the end of the season of AGT, but ultimately commented, “Let’s face it, she’s a catch, and I don’t think she’ll have any problem finding the right guy.”
Vergara, a former Miss Universe, recently gained fame as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on the hit show Modern Family from 2009-2020, and has had high-profile roles in films such as The Smurfs and Hot Pursuit.
Mandel himself is no stranger to the spotlight, having been a judge on AGT since 2010 and a long-time host on Deal or No Deal.
Although the initial joke seemed to be taken in stride by both Vergara and the show itself, it will be interesting to see if AGT will take precautions to avoid similar incidents in the future.