Not since the O.J. Simpson trial has there been so much heated debate surrounding domestic violence. After the Rihanna and Chris Brown debacle, some celebs have been issued gag orders while others have simply chosen to stay mum regarding the case. New York Times best-selling author, comedian and radio personality Steve Harvey talks to ESSENCE.com about the highly publicized alleged altercation, Chris Brown’s right to defend himself, and what he wants Rihanna to know.
ESSENCE.COM: Congrats on making the New York Times best-sellers list as a debut author. How awesome is it that you’re Oprah’s new favorite guy after appearing on her show? Is it true you’re going to be on her show again?
STEVE HARVEY: This is so unexpected because of the way it’s all happened. I can only give credit to God because there is no way I saw this happening. I tape “Oprah” again on Thursday with an audience of 300 women. This is the first time outside of my mentoring program and my foundation work that I’ve ever struck a business venture that wasn’t aimed at making money but to empower women. After my radio segment Strawberry Letters, I realized that 98 percent of the women who write me about their problems—those issues usually have something to do with a man. I didn’t know that what I was saying was so eye-opening, but simply sharing with women how men think. Most women might not like the answer but that doesn’t stop it from being the truth.
ESSENCE.COM: And you had some help from your coauthor, ESSENCE contributing writer Denene Millner.
HARVEY: Yeah, Denene was great and understood what I was trying to say right away. I tried to write the book myself at first but when I sat down and started reading it I thought, Hold on now, you are almost an idiot (laughs). I’m real country and I realized I couldn’t write things like, “looka here,” “it ain’t like that,” and expect my book to read well (laughs). So many women have said to me that they wish they had this book 20 years ago because they’d probably still be married. So the “think like a man” part is the crux of the book, and the “act like a lady” is just a reminder to the strong, independent women that, as men, we need to feel needed. Yes, I know you can take care of yourself, but the question is, do you want to have to do it all the time? Chivalry is not dead, it’s just no longer required because a lot of successful women who are financially secure often try to do things themselves. When that happens what is left for the man to do?
ESSENCE.COM: Well, men should always be there to support and uphold a sister, not tear her down. Speaking of which, you’ve been extremely vocal about the Rihanna and Chris Brown debacle on your syndicated radio show. If you could say anything to Chris Brown, what would you say?
HARVEY: First to Chris, any young man or my sons, I’d say there is no reason to ever put your hands on a woman. Unless you’re defending yourself because your life is in jeopardy—like a guy who called my show and told me his girl stabbed him, then okay, I believe you have a right to defend yourself if you’re under attack that could possibly be fatal.
ESSENCE.COM: Court documents allege Rihanna began hitting Chris Brown first while he was driving, so some might argue that his life was in jeopardy and he could have lost control of the car. Do you think he had a right to defend himself if this is indeed true?
HARVEY: It’s not right for a woman to ever put her hands on a man either, because that way she doesn’t provoke him. But I tell my daughters all the time, “Everybody don’t have a daddy like me.” The first day I meet any young man or boy who dates one of my three daughters (my twins are 26 and I have one who attends Spelman who is 21) I tell them: “You can talk to my daughter, yell at her, break up with her, have a falling out with her, tell her you never want to see her again, but if you ever put your hands on her I’m putting my hands on you and you’re not going to win and you better be looking over your shoulder because there’s not a place in this g*#damn country where you could hide. I really don’t understand how Rihanna’s father can respond the way he has, because if you touch one of my daughters, I’m whooping your a–, period.
ESSENCE.COM: Incredibly there have been debates that suggest she brought this on herself and deserved what happened to her. What do you think?
HARVEY: People keep asking, “What did Rihanna do?” She didn’t do anything to deserve the picture I saw. I would advise Rihanna to slow down and get her life together and do her. She needs to really step back and evaluate this situation and most importantly, not take any of the blame for what happened and allow herself to think she had a reason for being beat in that way.