Pageant Official Quits over Decision to Let Miss California USA Keep Her Crown
May 14, 2009 - 12:15 PMFormer Miss USA Shanna Moakler resigned as co-executive director of the Miss California USA pageant on Wednesday, saying she no longer believes in the organization because of pageant owner Donald Trump's decision to let the state's controversial title holder keep her crown.
After Miss California USA Carrie Prejean created a stir with her response to a question about gay marriage at last month's Miss USA pageant, questions about her work with gay marriage opponents and nearly nude photos taken of her when she was a teenager put her title in jeopardy.
At a news conference Monday, Moakler angrily accused Prejean of violating the contract she signed with pageant organizers, but Trump announced Tuesday that Prejean would keep her title.
Moakler, the Miss USA of 1995, said she decided after Trump's news conference to quit.
"I cannot with a clear conscience move forward supporting and promoting the Miss Universe Organization when I no longer believe in it or the contracts I signed committing myself as a youth," she said in a statement issued by her publicist. "I want to be a role model for young women with high hopes of pageantry, but now feel it more important to be a role model for my children."
Trump's senior executive assistant, Rhona Graff-Ricci, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prejean, the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, created a brouhaha when she responded to a question by celebrity judge Perez Hilton by saying, "I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."
After gay rights advocates took her to task, California pageant officials said Prejean asked for permission to elaborate on her answer and they agreed. But then, they said, she began speaking without their permission in front of crowds opposed to gay marriage, including her San Diego church and the National Organization for Marriage.
Keith Lewis, the state pageant's co-executive director, said Prejean also began missing Miss California events she was contractually obligated to attend.
Trump on Tuesday said there had been miscommunication among Prejean, pageant organizers and the outside groups, but added that "the communication problem, I believe, is totally solved."
Trump defended Prejean's statements that marriage should be exclusive to men and women, saying her position was similar to President Barack Obama's.
Photos of Prejean in her underwear, taken when she was 17, emerged after the Miss USA pageant.
Moakler said Monday that pageant officials were not as unhappy with what the photos of Prejean showed as they were with the fact she didn't disclose their existence, as the contract she signed required.
Trump, however, while acknowledging the photos were "risque," said he didn't think they were bad enough to get her booted.
Lewis said Wednesday he was saddened by Moakler's resignation but "would always respect the convictions that brought her to this place."
Prejean spokeswoman Melany Ethridge said Prejean, who turned 22 on Wednesday, was traveling and hadn't had a chance to speak with pageant officials since Moakler's resignation.
Moakler, an actress and model, posed nude for Playboy magazine but not until several years after she was Miss USA. The December 2001 Playmate of the Month said in her Playboy bio that her turnoffs include, "People who lie, cheat and are dishonest."
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