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April 24th, 2009
04:38 PM ET

A beauty pageant gets ugly

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/24/art.miss.ca.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Like an earth tremor on the San Andreas Fault, or the paparazzi behind Britney’s car, I could have told Miss California it was coming.

I had a long chat with Perez Hilton a few months ago and he made it screamingly clear that while he earns a living as a celebrity blogger, his life is about gay rights. So I was not surprised when he threw that ticking bomb of a question at her while he was serving as a judge during the Miss USA contest: “Do you think all states should approve same-sex marriages?”

The answer from Carrie Prejean, just in case you haven’t heard, was polite and in keeping with typical beauty pageant punditry. After saying she thinks it is great that people can choose their own mates, she added, “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.”

Often when people say “no offense,” what they mean is they are about to offend you, but you shouldn’t get all huffy about it. And that is precisely how many same-sex marriage proponents took her comment. They have been slamming the First Runner Up as intolerant on the blogs, YouTube, TV, and every other available platform.

And her supporters have been slamming right back by posting their own messages saying either that she is right to defend traditional marriage, or the critics are wrong to attack her free speech. One Alabama legislator even introduced a measure to commend her actions. Of course, he may just be snippy. The last time a Miss Alabama won the Miss USA crown was more than forty years ago, and this year she didn’t even make the top 15.

The real scandal in the contest, I should mention, is the extraordinary dominance of Texas: 8 crowns since 1985. Seems fishy. I’m just saying.

I digress. It’s easy to portray either side as the victim. But in the modern world of public debate, there are only winners coming out of this mess. Sure, Prejean did not win the crown, but she’s been on TV a heck of a lot more than the winner (who was that, by the way?) and even without a tiara, she’s being treated like royalty by people who share her views.

Hilton and his supporters are also getting what they want and that is another chance to publicize their struggle to have same-sex marriage approved coast to coast.

The fight is only going to get uglier, but the combatants on each side would have it no other way. As long as they are in the headline, they are sitting pretty.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. calvin franz

    It is apparent that Perez Hilton has used the news media to broadcast his minority and distorted views on an issue that the majority know is not natural. Why was a person of his character choosen to judge individuals to be selected to represent the majotiy of the people in the United States? The news media should report news and not be used by low life individuals to broadcast their ideas and views.We the majority do not and should not accept and respect the unnatural as equals. Man is the only living species on earth that allows the unnatural to continue to survive.

    April 26, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  2. Roger

    Perez Hilton is a bigoted hypocrite;Carrie answered the question honestly, professionally and most of all with respect to those whose opinion may differ,it's called having class Mr. Hilton look it up in the dictionary because you surely won't find it in the mirror. Congratulations Carrie honesty is the hallmark of integrity.

    April 25, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  3. mac

    CONGRATS TO MS. CALIFORNIA.

    thats not the way God created man, to live with and love another man the same with women. these are abominations in the eyes of God.

    they dont have rights for what they do, they should never have any rights. who is this idiot gay dork that thinks he has the right to crucify this girl. she spoke her opinion isnt she entitled to that. i thought the u.s. was a FREE country, maybe thats changed because we let these abnormalities take over society with their stupid ways.

    whats the u.s. becoming, it starting to become a country for gays and lesbians. that is a God fearing country before, but no longer.

    she has the right to her opinion just i do. GAYS and LESBIANS should not be allowed to adopt and raise kids, not allowed to hold any office or anything.

    thats my opinion, you dont like it crawl back into the hole where you came from and leave the God fearing people alone.

    April 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  4. RLWellman

    I think it is pretty bad when 3% of the population can tell the other 97% of the country what to do! Since when have we lost our freedom of speech? God's Word says marriage is between a man and a woman. It started with Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
    I know since the Left has been in office, there is a lot more talk about how evil the right is and saying the right needs to be watched. Give me a break! The last 8 years, the left cut down President Bush every chance they got.
    It is the same thing with the atheists. They fought and are still fighting to take God out of every thing this country stands for. This country was founded by Christian belivers. If you don't like the way this country is, you need to go someplace else!

    April 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  5. Vickie Show Me State

    Opinion's are like................ . Well, you know. We all have one! Maybe the question shouldn't have been asked!!!!!!!!! Don't ask for someone's opinion, then, get ugly with it. Can't handle the truth of another mans opinion. Then, don't ask! Get over it. We all have our own thought's and belief's about the subject. As, for, me. It hasn't kept me from sleeping at night. As long as it's not forced upon me, it's not any business of mine. Can't be any worse, than, hiding in the closet!!!!! Hypocrite's are, those who pretend it's wrong. Yet, still hide in the closet and do it anyway!

    April 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  6. Maria Cruz

    So many important issues the World and this great nation face, and this is what CNN chooses to print. Amazing!

    April 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  7. Jolene

    I have to say that I think everyone who keeps saying that the question she was asked was inapproprieate must have no idea what is expected of contestants in the Miss U.S.A. and Miss America organizations. As a contestant, you are expected to have poise and grace as well as intellect and the ability to think on your feet. I have been asked many questions about my personal stances on issues and know how she should have answered that question. Being true to herself should have been her first concern because integrity is so important to being a good role model. However, all she would have had to say was that the issue is one for the states to decide and then follow up with her personal belief. Her answer was solely from an opinion stand point and based on education of the issue. I think that all of the attention is getting is ridiculous. The focus should be on South Carolina, who won rightfully. And as for the man who said on Anderson Cooper 360 that, "I don't want to take public policy advice from a beauty queen." I am a beauty queen who has a dual degree from an accredited four year University of high acedemic standards in history and political science. Someday, I will be giving policy advice and you will have no choice but to listen. Most beauty pageant contestants are educated, intelligent women. Insulting our intellectual capabilities because we happen to be in a beauty pageant, which gives us scholarship money so that when we graduate college we are not in debt so high that we couldn't count it, proves you are ignorant.

    April 25, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  8. alohame

    Miss California was raised in a traditional family and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that, for the majority, at least. Gay rights are important, but marriage is not something to be toyed with in a society that believes in God and a marriage between man and woman. What part of traditional do you not understand? What part of God's words do you not understand?

    April 25, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  9. fernando

    what can you expect from show biz? They are all twisted from getting high on fame and vanity.

    April 25, 2009 at 1:46 am |
  10. UJACC

    ...If this really was just a human rights issue and not a moral religious issue, why not be satisfied with civil unions with benefits–why try to force churches to change their God given rights. The gays don't like when Christians (that includes Mormons) try to enforce their beliefs on you, so don't try to force your views on the churches.

    Live and let live I say, yes?

    So how about we grant same sex unions and ensure all benefits are provided without discrimination in the work place and so forth, but have churches be exempt on 1st Amendment grounds. If a church declines to perform a service on religious grounds, then so be it. I wouldn't want to go to a church that didn't exept me. Don't push so hard and maybe, just maybe gays get what they want and churches feel safe to practise as they believe. Makes to much sense doesn't it.

    April 25, 2009 at 1:01 am |
  11. UJACC

    Now don't jump down my throat on this either. The Boadwalk Church in Mass. (Mitt Romney's world) already dealt with this issue after a gay couple was refused the right to married outside the church like "other folks." The churches refusal amounted to a hate crime under the law of Mass., and I believe that church lost its tax exempt status?? I also believe that a photographer who happened to belong to the Broadwalk church was fined $2,000 for refusing to talk pictures because she didn't believe in homosexual lifestyles. So we see one agenda somehow being able to infridge on freedom of speach and freedom of religion and nobody gives a dam. So, I believe that the churches should fight against same sex marriages out of justified fear of what comes next...

    April 25, 2009 at 12:52 am |
  12. Jorhe

    Cute, I like the way this blog was more about 'media spotlight' as opposed to gay rights (or gay 'unrights')

    April 25, 2009 at 12:49 am |
  13. Lisa

    I didn't see anything wrong with Miss California's answer she was asked a simple question and she answered it with her honest opinion about how she feels and her beliefs in gay marriages. Freedom of speech right? I mean come on give the girl a break geez. I certainly feel the same way as she does. What is wrong in believing in a man and a woman, it's like heterosexual relationships are becoming extinct. I understand the gay movement, but why do gays & lesbians have to force their views and beliefs on everyone. It looks like to me she didn't answered correctly in Perez Hilton's eyes so now she is being condemned for it and that is just crazy. Perez Hilton was wrong for starting this war with Miss California. What should she say, what you want to hear Perez, please. Do not enforce your gay lifestyles and views on us heterosexuals, if we disagree to disagree then leave it at that and move on. Perez was totally wrong in slamming her! And I read the comments Perez made on twitter about Miss Cali. and he was totally dogging her which shows how much of a low class ignorant person he really is.

    April 25, 2009 at 12:47 am |
  14. Linda Benedict

    Why does Perez Hilton have ANY say in the Miss USA contest to begin with? Maybe he should be a judge of the Miss Gay USA...that's next...The girl answered his "stupid" question honestly and because HE didn't like what she said, she didn't win. I have gay friends, so what... I am straight.. so what..DEAL WITH IT! .Do I need a straight parade? Actually, its coming to that point. I believe that "marriage" is between a MAN and a WOMAN, not 2 women or 2 men. If you're gay and want to call what you have something..its a union. I think if you are gay, deal with it. I don't want to hear it. You should be able to use your "friends" drug plan receive death benefits etc. There are so many things in this world that are so much more important than this stuff. If you are gay and want your friend to receive death benefits, set it out in your will. I am so sick of listening to this junk. I want to get a group of straight people, and have a bloody parade. I will carry a sign that says, I have sex with a man SO WHAT! If the marriage stuff is so important than move to where its legal. Straight people are sick of hearing it, so are gay people fraqnkly. It's like straight people are being bullied by gays. Leave us alone already!!!

    April 25, 2009 at 12:11 am |
  15. Victoria Del Mundo

    I used to shared Miss California's views about gay marriage. Four years later - maybe a little wiser after having seen an Oscar nominated flick and witnessing true love from gay relatives and friends - I have switched 360 degrees.

    But this is irrelevant.

    I respect Miss California's opinion and admire her courage to say what she believes in. I think freedom of speech is part of the beauty that is America. If viewpoints from both sides could only be mentioned in hush whispers, I may not have changed my mind about this issue.

    April 24, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  16. Mahshid Loghmani

    Perez wanted her answer him the way he wanted to hear. How ever he does not have tolerance for any thing but the story on his head. I would say if he wants that freedom he should have given her freedom to answer the way she wanted.

    April 24, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  17. sharon lecouteur

    Although I do not agree with her, she did have the right to her own opinion and it should have been left at that !! You can not expect everyone to agree with you all the time.

    April 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm |
  18. AJ

    I totally disagreed with her, but she did have the right to her opinion. Yes, I also think it was predicable, as was her answer. I'd like to hear more about the actual girl who won now.

    April 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    It would be nice if there were some events we could have that would be free of politics and other social issues that plague our society right now. Whether or not I agree with Miss California is not important, what is important is that she has the right under our constitution to exercise free speech and have her own opinion. If people don't agree with her or if they do, its beside the point. We need to respect each others opinion and quit all the tantrums when people don't agree with us.

    April 24, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  20. Patton

    She has an opinion she is not a policy maker, What's the problem?

    April 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  21. debinaz

    i sure hope this man is not representing the gay community.....this would only bring their struggle down a notch...i do share miss californias views...why at a beauty pagent would someone ask that question anyway? enough said

    April 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm |
  22. Roy

    He asked the question and she gave HER answer. What is his problem???

    April 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  23. Curt

    You can get passionate about something without getting personal about it. Even when I loathe someone's ideas, as when a Nokia PR guy left comments on our Committee to Protect Bloggers site, I tried to both respect the man and kick out the stays of his case. It's not THAT hard to do. I wasn't wowed by this gal's speech but I was even less impressed by Hilton's Twisterberry freakout. Reason and respect for the person gives you a clear shot at their ideas.

    April 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  24. Mari

    This is tough, on one hand everyone in the U.S. has freedom of speech, even when their word or message is hateful, intolerant, or good. I, for one, will defend everyone's right to speak and say what they wish or believe. That's is one freedom that has made our Nation a safe haven for good and bad alike.

    Why is this young woman, then, being demonized by those who disagree with her? She has every right to voice her beliefs.

    Just like the LGBT community has a right to voice their beliefs.

    We may disagree but we can not condemn, that's God's job.

    April 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Can we just stop talking about it, for heaven's sake? Yes, she's allowed free speech, and no, I do NOT agree with her, but for heaven's sake, she lost. She lost because of her inarticulate, jumbled, and downright wrong (no, we do not have a choice in this country – that's the point) response. She's riding this train as far as it will take her, while the real winner is forgotten back at the station.

    It's shameful. Let's congratulate the real winner, and put this inarticulate loser back in the corner with the rest of the pretty girls who lost.

    April 24, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  26. mary

    That question should not have been asked in the first place.

    April 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  27. Pat Wilie

    I am for each to his own but most of us were raised to believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That doesn't mean the gays can't do it their way. This is a free country and freedom of speach is our right. I don't think Perez Hilton should have been a judge anyway because everyone should have seen this coming. He screwed up the pagent for everyone. I think he's nothing more than a pompas ass for the way he acted and for using the pagent for his grandstanding.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  28. Tarja, Finland

    Ok,we all know there is only one kind of answer that Mr. Hilton accepts for his question on gay rights. He has a right for his opinion JUST like Miss California has to hers.
    All this commotion afterwards is somewhat ridiculous. And btw, being this agressive about gay rights is not getting my sympathy.
    And I`m for marriages either way, opposite sex or same sex, it does not offend me.
    And btw I`m straight.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  29. Isabel

    Excellent article!

    What is happening is that people are giving much importance to what should not be so taken into account.

    Miss California has a conservative view, which is his right. She had the courage to expose this view, which today, is out of the ordinary ... people tend to be politically correct. She had personality. But enough. Final point.

    What is unacceptable is Miss California make herself a martyr and use that to gain audience in the media.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  30. Joelle

    Miss America is a ridicules spectacle and all they want is someone pretty who won't be offensive. I think anyone woman who enters it knows she gives up the right to have people care if she has an opinion or a brain.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  31. Bruce Greene

    The real scandal IS the contest. These pseudo competitions serve no purpose other than to contribute to the tabloid culture that, in many ways, spells the demise of any real critical thought in this country. Texas has always been as much a state of mind as a physical reality. Is it too late to split the lower 48 into a few sovereign nations?

    April 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  32. Erika

    I think it is amazing that Perez Hilton is calling for more tollorance in Miss California when he has offered none in return. As far as I have heard, this is still a free country; we each have the right to believe the way we wish~that includes political, religous and other lifestyle choices. Who does Perez Hilton think he is trying to force someone else to agree with his lifestyle choice by this harassment. And that is exactly what that is-harassment for an opinon. Miss California did not say that homosexuals do not have the right to pursue their lifestyle just that she has a different opinion regarding the instituition of marriage. Perez Hilton offers no tollerace of her beliefs. Such a double standard is all too common in Hollywood today.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  33. Connie Burtcheard

    A TV Journalist recently commented on this and other current topics with something to the effect of 'We as Americans are free to speak whatever we want...as long as it is politically correct."

    I can't help but agree. The question was "Do you think other states should follow suite?" While she did not answer the question per say, she did answer the 'Do you think' part. If Perez Hilton did not want to know what she thought, he should have phrased the question differently.

    Maybe he should have posed the question as "I am a gay rights activist and I want you to tell the world that all states should adopt Same Sex Marriage Legislation.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  34. Isabel Jimenez

    I have a question regarding this whole Miss USA/Miss California/Perez Hilton "thing": with all due respect to Perez Hilton, what on earth qualifies him to be a beauty pageant judge in the first place, anyway?!?! (not that I really care; this is, after all, a Donald Trump "enterprise", which isn't really saying much to begin with...)

    April 24, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  35. CJ in Texas

    Texas has the prettiest women. I'm just saying.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  36. Kim Hunsinger

    I am really chapped about this whole thing.. Dont ask someone a question about their opinion on a topic if you are going to cause such a stink about their answer...MYGod, it hasnt been that long ago that Vanessa Williams lost her crown for naked pictures and now we are upset because of someone not getting on stage and taking a stand for Gay Rights....For this type of venue it was a damned if you do,damed if you don't situation...Perez wanted his moment in the spotlight and that is exactly what we have given him..His webpage just had a song and video on it called"Suck my penis" next he will be wanting that played during the crowning and God help us all if we refuse.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  37. GF, Los Angeles

    I honestly don't understand what the bigg fuss is about over Carrie's comment. She was asked a question and answered it according to what she thought and felt. I don't agree with it but I feel she had every right to say what she did. It's sad that people can't say what's on their mind anymore without "offending" someone.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  38. ray mueller

    Mr Hilton, I do believe is a big jerk. This question should never have been allowed. had no place on a beauty queen show. How do they, the people in charge allow questions to be formulated? Isn't there some type of a run through to be sure that all are on equal grounds? If Hilton was trying to activate politics he certainly did open the proverbial Hornets Nest and in so doing made himself the foil not the young lady. She's getting a lot of good press, good for her. Seems to me that Hilton wanted someone else to win and dropped his bomb on this lady, an obvious probable victor, punish California's entry because they, Californians, have the temerity to buck Gay marriages????? Long live Prop 8.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  39. Elle Bennett

    I think state and church should be separate as do most Americans. If you are Catholic no other marriage is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord and Latter Day Saints (mormons) believe that a temple marriage is the only thing that counts, Jews believe in getting married in a synagague, Greek Orthodox well, you have the picture. So who cares who has a civil marriage on a legal document. If they can adopt children in their prospective states then they should be able to have a civil marriage. I do not think that Perez Hilton's vindictive look was helpful towards his cause. He treated her EXACTLY the way he does not want to be treated. Believing in and standing up for what he believes in. Pro abortion people are the same way . . . their way or the highway.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  40. Sara

    When is America going to wake up and smell the roses. Most other developed countries have legalized same sex marriage. It's funny in the supposed land of the free a large number of citizens are still oppressed. Sorry USA you are not the leader in freedom that you'd like the world to believe. You are still living in the 1940's where equal rights still don't exist for a significant part of your population.

    Good luck catching up with that freedom thing you like to think you have going on.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  41. denice johnson

    atta boy, perez!

    April 24, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  42. Joe G. (Illinois)

    It’s like you guys are still stuck talking about who makes a better 4 dollar cup of coffee.. I got news for you people..That ain’t coffee! It’s like.. granted that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman But… Take out the “For rich or poor” and the “In Health or sickness”, but keep the “White Dresses” of course and the Divorce and Abortion options all on the table” because this is America and it’s all legal..! And then you have a big lie people in America still call marriage.. This debate you are all having is farfetched.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  43. M Coleman

    LOL ... I don't know how it is anyplace else, but beauty pageants in Texas are kind of like pre-wall, Soviet Block Olympic sports. The contestants from some areas of the state are backed by almost limitless funding and support.

    And of course the princess college in Denton, cranks out Miss Texas contestants like a factory. there's probably a lot more to it than an exceptional Deportment program.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  44. Mary

    No one was more offensive than Anita Bryant's comments. What is it with Beauty Queens and homomsexuals?

    April 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  45. Domnita Luchian - Romania

    Great comment.
    First, I want to put it clear: I am against same-sex marriages. BUT I admit not all traditional marriages are happy and they don't necessarily create a healthy environment for a child.
    As for the tendency of Texas always winning, there's nothing fishy about that... just OILY.
    And yes, I don't know who Miss America is, yet I noticed Miss Cali and I appreciate that she risked losing the crown in order to defend her principles.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  46. lucianna

    Great article! I couldn't agree with you more about only winners coming out of this fiasco of a pageant. The fact that we still take what happens at these pageants seriously, is in of itself ridiculous!!! And although, I definitely believe that gays have rights, I also believe that straight or gay, all persons should have a right to their opinion, as long as it stays as an opinion. Once opinions are put into actions that violate the rights and freedoms of anyone's race, religion or whatever their believe system may be, then, well that's all whole different ball of wax!

    April 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  47. R J R

    I continue to be amazed that this is the subject of debate (gay marriage). Is equal rights under the law not in the Constitution? Is denying gay people the right to marry not simply illegal under the terms the founding fathers set forth?

    April 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  48. Mychaeltodd Robinson

    Behind all that make-up or mud.............it's a dirty life.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  49. Loraine

    I agree with her. Just because a person doesnt agree with same sex marraige doesnt mean that person hates homosexuals. The person just doesnt agree with same sex marriage.

    April 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  50. Teresa

    With gay hair stylists, dress designers, make-up artists, choreographers, photographers, JUDGES, etc...a girl should know which side her bread is buttered on...she should have been prepared for this question. She wasn't.. America shouldn't tolerate discrimination & Miss USA shouldn't have that "ideal".

    April 24, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
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