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Miss California is stripped of her crown after controversial reign

It’s official: Carrie Prejean, the darling of conservative media pundits and the scourge of gay marriage advocates, has been fired as Miss California USA. First runner-up Tami Farrell, a.k.a. Miss Malibu, will take her place.

Prejean’s termination, according to pageant officials, had nothing to do with the anti-gay-marriage comments that catapulted her from beauty queen to political commentator. Nor was it prompted by the semi-nude photos that won her the attention of adolescent boys across the political spectrum.

Instead, pageant officials said the San Diego college student simply wasn’t doing her job.

“This was a decision based solely on contract violations, including Ms. Prejean’s unwillingness to make appearances on behalf of the Miss California USA organization,” said Keith Lewis, co-executive director of the Miss California USA pageant. “It has become abundantly clear that Carrie is unwilling to fulfill her obligations under our contract and work together.”

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The violations included refusing to appear on the “Larry King Live” show and turning down red-carpet events from sponsors, said Lewis’ publicist, Roger Neal.

“I told Carrie she needed to get back to work and honor her contract,” said Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. “Unfortunately, it just doesn’t look like it is going to happen, and I offered Keith my full support in making this decision. Carrie is a beautiful young woman and I wish her well as she pursues her other interests.”

But Prejean, in an interview with “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush, disputed those allegations and said she was being fired for political reasons.

“It is just because of my answer, I think. None of this would be happening right now if I had just said, ‘Yeah, gays should get married,’ ” she told Bush.

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She added that it was unjust. “I mean of course I want to be Miss California USA. I earned it. I deserved it. I won. I beat out 90 other girls. . . . This is something that I did and accomplished.”

The move was the latest twist in a story that mixes court intrigue with the machinations of reality television -- and underscores what a hot-button issue the question of gay marriage has become.

Prejean burst onto the 24-hour talk-show-blogosphere stage in April, when she responded to a question on same-sex marriage at the Miss USA Pageant. She said she did not believe that two people of the same sex should be allowed to marry. “No offense to anybody out there,” she said.

But offense was taken.

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The pageant judge who asked the question was celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who is gay. Hilton helped fan the flames of controversy by declaring that her answer had helped cost her the Miss USA crown. After that, the pair engaged in a talk-show showdown that went on for days.

Both sides in the fight over gay marriage used the flap over Prejean to draw attention to their cause.

Miss California USA pageant officials, meanwhile, were incensed. They accused her of “hijacking” their pageant and tried to strip her of her crown. Trump at first refused to go along with it, saying she could retain her title. Then he changed his mind.

Partisans on both sides predicted the drama would only continue.

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Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, said Wednesday that America hasn’t heard the last of Prejean.

“The fact is she will [now] be free to stand up for her views,” he said. “They won’t be able to silence her. . . . She will be able to stand up and define her own mission and her own message.”

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jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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ruben.vives@latimes.com


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