In the 22 August episode, 12-year-old contestant Brynn Cummings took to the AGT stage where she performed a magic and ventriloquism act. After Cummings enlisted co-judge Heidi Klum to help her puppet find a love connection, panelist Mandel told the 12-year-old that she should’ve picked Vergara, who is divorcing her husband Joe Manganiello, instead.
“If I have one word of advice, if you’re looking for eligible bachelors, you should’ve talked to Sofia because she’s in the market right now,” Mandel said, to a mix of cheers and boos from the audience.
However, the Modern Family alum took it on the chin when she jokingly exclaimed “yes” and threw her hands up in the air.
AGT host Terry Crews then stepped in to defend Vergara, saying into the microphone: “No, no. We are not doing that here.”
The former Deal or No Deal host’s remark about Vergara and Manganiello’s divorce was quickly criticised online by some social media users, who called the joke a “low blow”.
On X, formally known as Twitter, one person tweeted: “I can’t be the only one who thinks this episode of #AGT is weird as f*** right??? Howie throwing that low blow at Sofia, Simon buzzing the guitar act when there were far worse. The vibes are all off. It feels like the judges are pissed at each other and idk why.”
“That was so messed up @howiemandel making fun of Sofia,” another person wrote. “And it wasn’t even funny!!!”
“Know your place Howie,” a third viewer said. “Thank you Terry for saving Sofia.”
i can’t be the only one who thinks this episode of #AGT is weird as fuck right??? howie throwing that low blow at sofia, simon buzzing the guitar act when there were far worse. the vibes are all off. it feels like the judges are pissed at each other and idk why lol
— brian (@moonlightcinny) August 23, 2023
— Bero (@beronicaq) August 23, 2023
Know your place Howie 😤 Thank you Terry for saving Sofia. 😂 #agt
— Ashley🌹🐾🐻❄️ (@_aRoseInBloom_) August 23, 2023
Following the backlash, Mandel defended his light-hearted joke about Vergara’s single status in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I was helping Sofia!” he told the outlet, before adding that “people were killing him” online for his jest.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my god. Using Heidi to find an eligible bachelor? Hello! Who’s right here? Sofia is on the market, ready and eager!’” he said. “And then online people said it was too soon and it was tasteless.”
Mandel continued: “It’s not too soon! It’s too soon when she’s still married. Last season was too soon. Even if she saw it coming. I don’t think she did. I’m just saying, that was too soon.
“As soon as she’s free, as soon as they live in separate homes, the door is open, people!”
In July, Vergara and Manganiello announced they were divorcing after seven years of marriage. The couple, who married in 2015, issued a statement through their representatives about their separation to Page Six. “We have made the difficult decision to divorce,” the couple said in the statement.
As they reflected on how much love they still have for each other, they also asked for privacy amid the news of their separation. “As two people that love and care for one another very much, we politely ask for respect of our privacy at this time as we navigate this new phase of our lives,” they said. A source toldPage Six at the time that Vergara and Manganiello had been “growing apart for a while now” and are “taking some distance from each other to contemplate their future”.
The Magic Mike star filed for divorce two days after their separation was announced, citing “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for their split. Manganiello also listed the date of separation as 2 July and noted the pair had a prenup. According to People, sources claimed Manganiello, 46, and Vergara, 51, had “conflicting opinions” about having children.
Vergara - who was named the highest paid actress of 2020 after making $500,000 per episode of Modern Family - soon asked the courts to uphold her prenup, ensuring that she would be leaving the marriage with her separate property as well as all her separate earnings, according to Entertainment Tonight.
The Colombian-American actor was introduced to Manganiello by her Modern Family co-star, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2014. The pair hit it off, and in December of that year, Manganiello proposed to Vergara. They tied the knot in November of the following year.
Rumours that the couple had separated began to circulate after Vergara was spotted celebrating her 51st birthday in Italy with neither her husband nor her wedding ring. Fans also suggested that the couple had hit a rough patch after Manganiello shared a birthday tribute to his wife of seven years, with some claiming that the Instagram post was “awkward and cold”.
Speaking to People, a source claimed that the pair had been going through some “ups and downs for a long time,” but “always put on a good front publicly”.
“[Sofia] is sad that her marriage didn’t work out, but she feels very fortunate anyway,” they said. “She has a great life that she loves. She is staying at her house for now. Joe is living elsewhere.”