Jenna Bush Hager doesn't have bad intentions.
While interviewing Pharrell Williams on the 2017 Golden Globes red carpet, she congratulated the producer on the success of Hidden Fences—which would've been fine, if that were a real movie. Williams produced Hidden Figures (and wrote original music for the film), while Denzel Washington directed and starred in Fences (opposite Viola Davis). Viewers, including Gabrielle Union, swiftly criticized her flub, which inspired a parody Twitter account: @TheHiddenFences.
Bush Hager apologized on Today Monday. "I thought last night was terrific. There were a lot of great moments," she said in the 8 o'clock hour. "Viola Davis was one of my favorites when she said to Meryl Streep, 'You made me feel like enough.' I thought that was a beautiful speech."
"I had an error in the night, which I have to apologize for," Bush Hager told NBC colleagues Natalie Morales and Al Roker. "When I was interviewing the incomparable Pharrell, who I adore, I accidentally—in the electricity of the red carpet, which I have never done before—I called Hidden Figures 'Hidden Fences.' I have seen both movies. I thought they were both brilliant. I have interviewed casts from both of the movies. If I offended people, I am deeply sorry. It was a mistake, because you all know, I am not perfect. I am authentic but a human. What I didn't want to do is make anybody feel lesser than who they are. So, anyway, I hope…I apologized to both the cast, to Pharrell, but it was a mistake and I hope we can all move on."
As Bush Hager wiped tears from her eyes, Roker offered encouragement. "All of us who know you know your heart and know that was a mistake," he said. "Any broadcaster's been in a live situation and you make a mistake. Look, I forgot Braveheart when I was interviewing Mel Gibson last night." Morales chimed in to tell Roker, "You called Jessica Biel 'Jessica Alba!'"
"Exactly!" Roker told Bush Hager. "You don't want to go by me because I'm old. But the fact is, honest mistakes happen in live television, and this culture of Twitter and people waiting to pounce, to get on people, it's got to stop. It's got to stop somewhere because it's just ridiculous." He also called out The New York Times and other media for taking a "cheap shot."
Bush Hager said she has a pretty thick skin, "because I've lived through a lot. You can say whatever you want to say about me, but to act as though I don't care about people really hurt."
Morales, who co-hosts Access Hollywood Live, sympathized with her colleague in the wake of the backlash. "For anybody who doesn't understand the electricity of the red carpet, it's like a mosh pit. You're getting celebrities coming at you from all directions. You don't know who you're going to interview next and you have like five people waiting for you. There's backup on the carpet. It's a lot happening at the same time. And I think you had just interviewed the cast of Fences also; I think they were just right there in the moment," she shrugged. "It happens."
Bush Hager wanted to make it clear that she wasn't making excuses. "I do apologize and I hope they know how brilliant those films are," she said. "I did not want to make anybody feel lesser."
After Bush Hager's teary on-air apology, Hidden Figures star Octavia Spencer reached out to her via Twitter. "We all make mistakes, hon!" the Golden Globe-nominated actress wrote. "Thanks for your apology!" In response, Bush Hager retweeted her and added, "Your kindness means so much to me + your compassion is matched only by your incredible talent in Hidden FIGURES!"
Williams also told Bush Hager not to "worry" about it. "Everyone makes mistakes," he tweeted Monday. "Hidden Fences does sound like an intriguing movie though. Just saying..."
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