Steve Harvey is expressing regret following a heated argument between himself and Mo’Nique that aired last week.
“I’ve got to slow down when I’m talking,” Harvey, 62, told PEOPLE on Sunday at a Celebrity Family Feud event in Los Angeles. “I can’t get into heated discussions, and I’ve got to just guard my words more carefully.”
During an interview on Harvey’s Steve talk show on Wednesday, Harvey and the 51-year-old comedian and actress clashed over her claims she was shut out of Hollywood after winning the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2010. Mo’Nique said she and her husband and manager, Sidney Hicks, “got labeled as difficult” for pushing back when the producers of Precious asked her to do more Oscar campaigning, while Harvey suggested that she should put her integrity aside when there is money on the table.
“I take full responsibility for it, it came out my mouth, so I can’t say that I didn’t say it,” Harvey told PEOPLE. “But to people that really know me, I have lived my whole life as a man of integrity. So when I was referring to ‘integrity’ in that interview, I was talking about the method in which things were being done, and that is all it was.”
“I never questioned anybody’s principles or anybody’s causes,” he continued. “I was merely questioning, for the 50-minute interview, the method that she chose going about doing it — and I regret that looking back at it now, because that was a bad choice of words.”
Harvey said he hopes his young fans will understand where he’s coming from.
“I shouted out and it happened, I regret it, but I want young people, the kids that come to my camps, the young people that I mentor, the fans that really respect me, to know to just charge that one to my head and not to my heart,” he said. “Because in my heart, that is not what I have asked anyone to do. I have lived my whole life as a man of integrity, and I will stand on that, but I was really just talking about the method that they went about doing what they did, and that was it.”
Mo’Nique’s comments came nine years after she refused to campaign for a scene-stealing role as an abusive mother in Precious during awards season and was criticized by director Lee Daniels for her “demands.” After winning the Oscar for the film, she began her acceptance speech by saying, “First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.”
Despite her victory, Mo’Nique has long maintained she was punished for her actions, telling The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that she was “blackballed” for refusing to “play the game.”
Last week, Mo’nique said she felt betrayed when Harvey publicly criticized her without speaking to her first, pointing out that he and other prominent African Americans in Hollywood had not stood by her publicly. Harvey said he hoped the pair could put their differences behind them.
“I hate what’s happening to you,” he said. “I hate what they’re saying that’s not true. I want them to know that you’re caring, that you’re a great mother, that you’re an incredible talent. I don’t like the fact that you’ve been blackballed. You’re too talented to have to worry about all this.”
The host offered to help the actress repair bridges she may have burned.
“I’m going to try and arrange — I’m going to do my best — to get the conversations that need to be had between you and these people so you can hear from them,” he told her. “I’m going to then ask them will they say it publicly, for the benefit of everybody, so you can get the release that you need. Then I’m going to ask you to tell these people and apologize for some bashing [that you did]. When everybody can come to that, that’s a chance for us to move [forward].”
In the years since the controversy, Mo’Nique has found success away from the movie business, becoming the first black female comedian to score a residency in Las Vegas at the SLS Hostel and Casino.
He doesn’t regret what he said — he regrets the backlash. He meant every word.