Miss USA Pageant and contestant Sheena Monnin continue to battle
June 9, 2012 10:34 AM
By Jack Kelly Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cranberry resident Sheena Monnin, who resigned as Miss Pennsylvania USA, said on NBC's "Today" show on Friday that the threat of a lawsuit by Donald Trump won't make her back off her charge the Miss USA pageant was rigged.
"I just want the truth to be known," Ms. Monnin, 27, said in an interview with Ann Curry.
On Friday, lawyers for the Miss Universe Organization filed an arbitration action that seeks monetary damages from Ms. Monnin for "ongoing defamatory statements."
The organization filed the action with a private dispute resolution entity, and not as a formal lawsuit, because of a contract that requires disputes between the organization and contestants be settled in private arbitration.
Ms. Monnin competed in the pageant in Las Vegas last weekend, where the crown went to Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island. Ms. Monnin resigned Monday and charged on her Facebook page that the pageant was "fraudulent, lacking in morals."
She claims that Miss Florida, Karina Brez, told her that she saw a list detailing the top five finalists before the top 16 had even been announced.
"I know what I heard, and I know what I in turn witnessed come true based on what I heard the contestant said she saw on the list, so I'm prepared to continue to march forward," Ms. Monnin told Ms. Curry.
On Friday, the pageant released a statement from Ms. Brez in which she disputes Ms. Monnin's version of the events. "The list I saw didn't even have the eventual winner on it," the statement read.
Miss Florida USA was just joking, pageant officials said. Ms. Monnin wasn't buying that.
"I've had many years of psychological training," she said. "I know body language. I know when someone is 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."
Mr. Trump, who co-owns the Miss USA Pageant with NBC, said an internal investigation indicated the charge is false.
Pageant officials maintain the judging was done fairly and under the watchful eye of auditor Ernst & Young.
"[The] tabulation of the judges' votes which determined the final five contestants did not occur until after the evening gown competition had been completed," Ernst & Young said in a statement released Friday evening.
Pageant officials said the real reason Ms. Monnin resigned is because she's unhappy with Mr. Trump's decision two months ago to permit transgender women to compete.
Jenna Talackova, 23, a transgender Miss Universe Canada contestant, challenged the rule earlier this year, and Mr. Trump amended it.
Ms. Monnin said she doesn't agree with that decision. "There are myriad reasons why I resigned," she said. At the end of Friday's interview, Ms. Monnin claimed to have received legal documentation regarding her decision with several options, which she did not elaborate on.
"I'm not sure which option I will take, but I do know that moving forward, my main motivation will remain the same," she said.