Back when I first heard about ex-Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin's claims that the Miss USA pageant was rigged, my main thought was, well, of COURSE it is. I mean, her allegations that the finalists were chosen before the show even started didn't seem all that shocking to me.
As it turns out, the shocking thing isn't really that Monnin made public claims that the pageant is "fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent and in many ways trashy." It's that Donald Trump sued her for her inflammatory statements -- and he won.
Yes. A judge awarded the Miss Universe Organization $5 million in damages against Monin. The (lacking?) moral of this story may be this: don't badmouth the Donald unless you've got DEEP legal pockets.
Sheen Monnin and the whole Miss USA kerfuffle really came down to a big old she said/she said/he said story. Monnin alleges that another contestant, Miss Florida Karian Brez, told Monnin that she'd seen a list of the top five finalists before the 16 semifinalists were even announced. According to Monnin,
There's no doubt in my mind that the contestant was serious when she laid out what she said she saw, and I believe her to be true. I have many years of psychological training. I know when someone's telling a joke, I know when someone's scared and when someone's serious, and in my opinion her body language was very serious. She looked a little bit scared because she had just seen something that would potentially, drastically change the reputation of the Miss Universe Organization. This is a big deal.
She was apparently referring to her master's degree in psychology with that "psychological training" comment.
As for Karian Brez, she said Monnin was "using this situation for her own ends," and that Brez had only made a joke about seeing the list:
(I did see) a piece of paper with names on it, and like most people in such frenetic circumstances, joked that they must be the names of the final contestants. It was a throwaway comment, in the stress of the pageant, and was never meant as a fact.
Meanwhile, the pageant claimed that the REAL reason Monnin had resigned from her post as Miss Pennsylvania was because she was opposed to the pageant's decision to include transgender contestants. They cited an email she reportedly sent to pageant organizers, which allegedly included the following:
(I will no longer be) part of a pageant system that has so far and so completely removed itself from its foundational principles as to allow and support natural born males to compete in it. This goes against every moral fiber of my being. I believe in integrity, high moral character, and fair play, none of which are part of this system any longer.
In the midst of all the drama, Trump gave her a public ultimatum to retract her statement or be sued. He also voiced his own opinion as to why she was making the claims she did:
She lost and if you look at her compared to the people who were in the top 15, you would understand why she's not in the top 15. It's a very, very sad situation.
Fast-forward from June (when this all went down) to now, and whatever the real story is, Monnin's the clear loser in the legal battle. A judge ruled that she had defamed the organization, and awarded it $5 million in damages.
Naturally, Trump managed to get the last word, calling Monnin "really nasty," and saying that the lawsuit has been an expensive lesson for her. Who's to say if the first thing is true, but the second part of his statement can't be denied. I wonder what that $5 million will be used for? Marketing and public relations to rehabilitate the spotless image of this tragically damaged organization? Perhaps they could get the smooth-talking former Miss South Carolina Teen USA to help out with this noble effort.
What's your take on this lawsuit? Do you think Trump deserved to win?
Image via MissUniverse