Josh Duhamel is opening up about his ex-wife Fergie’s national anthem debacle at the NBA All-Star Game.
The actor, 45, who split with the Black Eyed Peas singer last year, did not hear the performance live and first learned of its poor reception when a friend texted him about the bad reviews.
“I’ve seen the girl sing it several times,” he said on The Dan Patrick Show Thursday. “She crushes the song, so I was surprised to see that she tried what she did,” he added, referencing Fergie’s highly stylized take on “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“But more than that, I just felt bad for her,” he continued. “There’s an army of trolls out there that are just ready to pounce, and they are not nice. And for that I feel bad, but she’s a really tough girl.”
Still, Duhamel said it was hard not to take the criticism personally. “When somebody you care about is getting hammered like that, it’s not easy,” he explained. “I wanted to defend her too … but I was like, ‘I just got to stay out of this.’ ”
The actor first addressed the incident on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he revealed that he delivered his ex flowers after the performance.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he told Patrick. “I was like, ‘I just want you to know I got your back girl. I’m with you. I’m on your side.’ ”
The day after the All-Star game, Fergie apologized for her polarizing performance.
“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” she told PEOPLE. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”
Moving forward, Duhamel says Fergie’s “doing great,” adding, “The girl’s amazingly talented. She’s had a challenging year but she is resilient.”
His full interview on The Dan Patrick Show is available on AT&T AUDIENCE Network.
He stars in Love, Simon, out Friday.