The controversy began when Smith was asked for his opinion about Rihanna’s upcoming Super Bowl Halftime performance on February 12.
“I don’t want to say I’m not excited. She’s fantastic,” he said during an appearance on “Sherri.” “That’s not where I’m going with this. She’s a lot of things,” Smith continued. “She’s spectacular. And congratulations on new mamahood. There’s one thing she’s not: She ain’t Beyoncé.”
His comments inspired a loud chorus of “boos” from the audience.
“The only reason I brought up Beyoncé is because Beyoncé recently performed at the Super Bowl. And without Bruno Mars and Coldplay.”
Sherri Shepherd argued that Beyoncé “had her time” to shine, but the ESPN host wouldn’t budge.
After receiving a ton of backlash from Rihanna fans, Smith decided to embark on an apology tour.
He posted a video in his own defense, saying he’d compare any artist to what he considered to be an unbeatable performance from Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars in 2016 at the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show.
“I’m gonna own it,” he said in the video, which was posted to Twitter and Instagram. “I know what y’all trying to do, but I’m gonna own it because I get paid to speak for a living, so I need to be more careful.”
“I want Rihanna to know, you’re a superstar, you’re sensational, you’re spectacular, you’re no joke and you are a worthy person to be doing the Super Bowl halftime show,” he continued.
“Michael Jackson could still be alive and I would say, ‘He’s gotta measure up to that,’” Smith asserted in the video. “I’ve always said that. I meant it as no disrespect to Rihanna. I know she’s phenomenal, and she’s my sister. Nothing but love for her. But Beyoncé is my sister too. I got love for both of them. I just think that Beyoncé is the greatest performer out there today.”
“Rihanna, go do your thing,” Smith said. “I apologize for creating whatever brouhaha comes of this. I gotta be more careful, where people twist it and turn it into something it ain’t. My bad on that.”