Sports personality and TV host Stephen A Smith has issued a three-minute apology after saying "Rihanna ain't no Beyonce".
Ahead of Rihanna's debut Super Bowl performance next month, Smith sat down with Sherri Shepherd and called the 'We Found Love' singer "fantastic" and congratulated the star on her baby with rapper Asap Rocky.
"That’s not where I’m going with this," he disclaimed. "Ladies and gentlemen, she’s a lot of things, she’s spectacular and congratulations on new [motherhood]."
Things took an unexpected turn when he compared Rihanna to fellow A-lister Beyonce, who hit the Halftime Show stage in 2013.
"There’s one thing she’s not, she ain’t Beyonce," Smith added, as the audience gasped. "The only reason I brought up Beyonce is because Beyonce recently performed at the Super Bowl… there’s levels, you know."
He continued: "Rihanna’s music is fantastic, she’s great, she’s a sister. I love her dearly, I listen to her music, I’m gonna support her ’til the cows come home.
"I’m just telling you for me, there is Beyonce and then there’s everybody else… She’s going to be good. She can’t be bad, she’s too great not to be good."
Inevitably, Rihanna fans were not happy – and turned to Twitter to express their outrage at his comments.
One person said: "Why always comparing ??! Both are great artists and have different personalities and talents! Let Rihanna be great at her first Super Bowl HT show."
Another tweeted: "1. Rihanna has NOTHING to prove. She already established that she’s greatness and 2. Don’t drag Beyoncé in your mess."
Meanwhile, a third joked: "*Rihanna googling*: 'What’s a Stephen A smith.'"
He later confessed to being a Beyonce fan because she's "the phenomenal performer."
Smith went on to justify his remarks by saying the only reason he compared the pair was that "Beyonce performed at halftime at the Super Bowl, not just by herself [in 2013], but one separate performance with Bruno Mars and Coldplay [in 2016]."
He continued: "I thought those were two of the greatest shows that I’ve ever seen."
Smith said he meant "no disrespect to Rihanna" and thinks, she too, "is phenomenal".
"I got love for the both of them. I just think that Beyonce is the greatest performer out there today. That’s me, that doesn’t mean I’m hating on anybody else and that doesn’t mean I’m damn well wishing for Rihanna to fail. I think she’s going to be great," he added.
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