Howie Mandel Reacts to Backlash Over Sofia Vergara Single Status Joke (Exclusive)

The 'America's Got Talent' judge's lighthearted quip was met with mixed reactions online.

Howie Mandel is defending his joke aimed at Sofia Vergara. ET's Denny Directo spoke with the America's Got Talent judge the day after the first live show of the season, and Mandel doubled down on making a joke about his co-worker's single status.

"I was helping Sofia!" Mandel insisted to ET, before lamenting that "people were killing him" online for his lighthearted quip.

It all started when Brynn Cummings, a ventriloquist and magician, performed an act aimed at finding an eligible bachelor. The performer enlisted judge Heidi Klum to help with the trick, but Mandel took issue with that, given that the model has been married to Tom Kaulitz since 2019.

"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 quipped on air, alluding to Vergara's July split from Joe Manganiello.

"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!'" Mandel told ET. "And then online people said it was too soon and it was tasteless."

"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," he added. "As soon as she's free, as soon as they live in separate homes, the door is open, people!"

For her part, Vegara appeared to take the joke well, exclaiming "Yes!" as she threw her hands up in the air.

"She came over and she thought it was funny. She [said it was] good [and said] how much she wants that," Mandel said. "The only reason I'm doing press today is I'm just doubling down on it. I'm her Bumble. She approved of the joke. She thought it was funny. She posted afterwards. But the internet is mad."

Mandel noted that, while he doesn't have any potential partners in mind for Vergara, he's confident she'll find someone to build a life with.

"I think Sofia Vergara is a gift to anybody. I would imagine anybody watching the show right now, anybody watching last night, or anybody who's ever seen Sofia Vergara is pining at the chance if they have the opportunity to be part of her life," he said. "She checks every box: beauty, brains, humor, everything."

As for the advice he'd give to any potential suitors, Mandel quipped, "I would take some Spanish lessons."

AGT's current season marks Mandel's 14th year on the show, a fact he admitted is "crazy."

"It's like yesterday when Simon [Cowell] called me and said, 'Hey, would you like to be on this show?'" he said. "I cannot believe it. I cannot believe we have the level of talent still. We don't run out of talent... The level of talent is crazy. I walked away from last night thinking, 'Oh, you ain't seen nothing yet.'"

America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays on NBC.