While Eminem certainly won the approval of MTV Video Music Awards voters, his appearance at the annual awards show Thursday night may have turned off as many fans as it impressed.
The controversial rapper lived up to his billing, approaching Moby — a target of past Eminem lyrical jabs — while the techno star was being interviewed and he thrust a middle finger into his face just out of camera range. When the camera and interviewer — beloved "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" character Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — then turned their attention to Em, the rapper pushed the puppet aside and a member of his entourage tossed the comic's notes into the air. (Click for photos of the top VMA moments.) Shortly thereafter, Eminem won the night's Best Male Video award, and taunted Moby from the stage, calling him a "little girl" and warning the bespectacled artist, "I will hit a man with glasses" (see "Eminem Takes Home Most Moonmen From Video Music Awards").
The rapper's behavior inspired a round of boos at Radio City, and left Moby dumbfounded. "The truth is that I honestly, in all sincerity, thought that the whole Eminem thing was done in some semblance of humor until Eminem called me a pu--- (that was off camera) and then threatened to beat me up," Moby wrote on his official Web site. "I think that Eminem is talented and interesting but I'm kind of stunned at the anger that he has for me seeing as I'd never met him up until last night."
The incident prompted a similarly strong response from fans at home. Many supported Eminem, including Cyndi from New Albany, Mississippi, who wrote in one of the many e-mails on the subject that flooded into MTV News Online's You Tell Us area, "Eminem was totally classic tonight. He is still the same Eminem that all his fans fell in love with."
But others were less kind. "How can someone who talks about being bullied as a kid be such a bully?" Ian from San Francisco asked. "Eminem has totally lost a fan."
"I lost a ton of respect for Eminem tonight," Sean from Corinth, Mississippi, wrote. "I'm glad Moby took the high road. He's the real artist anyhow."
"Eminem's performance was great, and then he had to ruin it by threatening to hit people while accepting an award," Kim from Orlando, Florida, wrote. "He deserved more than the booing he got."
For others, the rapper's antics were just the latest link in a continuing chain of unappealing behavior. "Why does Eminem have to be such a jerk all the time?" Tracy of Indianapolis wrote. "There was no reason for him to even address Moby at all, and I think everyone was justified in booing him."
"Isn't Eminem's 'angry white man' persona getting old?" Kim from Tulsa, Oklahoma, asked. "Damn, can the real Marshall Mathers please stand up?"
While Em's appearance alienated many, others applauded the rapper for staying true to his uncompromising rep. "Eminem is an outstanding performer who is constantly booed and put down for being real," Vontese wrote from Los Angeles. "I was really upset that everyone at the awards loved him one minute and turned on him the next for being himself. Don't follow the crowd. Love him or leave him the f--- alone! Keep being you, Em."
"The people that were out in the audience booing were the same who were on Em's jock when he first came out," Mia from Las Vegas added. "I just hope he keeps speaking from his heart and soul. There are people out there who appreciate what he's doing."
"With his use of uncensored current events and personal challenges, [Eminem] seems to say what he feels with no fears of what others think, the same as another band I hold highly, Rage Against the Machine," April from California's Beale Air Force Base said. "I'd really like to tell him his lyrics are real and he says what a lot of people don't. Keep it real."
But perhaps the most telling response came from the person with the best vantage point of the altercation, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
"I would like all of you to know that I am fine, that the scuffle at the MTV Awards involving Eminem, Moby and Eminem's trusty friend who threw my pooping paper in the air did not result in permanent injury," the comedian wrote on his official Web site. "I only wish Eminem could relax and enjoy all he has: his unique talent, and his smooth white hair, which brings to mind a beagle's nutsack. He should lighten up ... I mean, my mom was a bitch too, but I don't go writing songs about it."
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.