Nigel Barker on Miss California flubbing his Miss USA question: ‘She was actually one of my favorites!’

This year’s viral beauty pageant moment goes to Miss California Nadia Mejia, who flubbed judge Nigel Barker‘s question during Sunday night’s Miss USA competition.

“How do we narrow the gap between the rich and the poor?” he asked.

After moments of awkward silence, Mejia gave a meandering response that became an instant meme: “When it comes to social and economic equality, I think that the rich and the poor need to stop being so segregated. I think that the rich need to be able to be giving, and I think the poor need to work hard, and I think the middle class need to come together and find an in-between.”

On Tuesday’s episode of Nigel Barker’s Gentleman’s Code, the acclaimed photographer clarified that he didn’t write the question himself and asked haters not to shoot the messenger.

“She was actually one of my favorites!” Barker, 44, said of Mejia. “And when people say, ‘I can’t believe you asked that question,’ I got insulted. People call me an a** clown, they call me an effing this, they call me an effing that. They call me a whole bunch of nasty words and things because she didn’t answer the question particularly well, but you’ve got to understand that the only reason why she was standing there in the first place is because I voted for her. I am the judge. So don’t be pissed off with the fact that she didn’t answer the question right and blame it on me. She didn’t have a great moment. That happens in life.”

After replaying the clip on air, Barker cried, “Oh Nadia! The poor need to work hard? Because, you know, when you’re working at Walmart cleaning the toilets, you’re not working hard, are you, love? Oh, God. Oh, bless her. And you know, the poor love — and I really mean this — I don’t think she meant it badly.”

“Listen, it was a tough question,” he added. “However, you have to take a moment for yourself, and this is the thing about Miss USA. Yes, they’re going to be on the covers of magazines. Yes, they’re going to be photographed. Yes, they’re pretty, beautiful girls and pageants are a lot about beauty and poise and all the rest of it. But first and foremost, they will be interviewed. They will be on morning television. They will lobby Congress with their issues that they think are serious to themselves. … So you need to be on your toes. This is an election year. You need to answer questions and be able to at least dodge a question, a bit like Miss Hawaii did when she was asked whether she’s going to be a Trump supporter or a Clinton supporter, which by the way was another, much harder question because it really puts you on the spot.”

Nigel Barker’s Gentleman’s Code airs live every Tuesday at 1 pm ET on SiriusXM Radio Andy (Ch. 102).

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