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Trump says Miss California USA can keep her crown despite uproar

Miss California USA, who became a controversial symbol of the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, can keep her bejeweled crown, Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe and USA pageant system and final arbiter of all such matters, decided Tuesday.

Title holder Carrie Prejean was thrust into a media firestorm last month at the Miss USA pageant when contest judge Perez Hilton, who runs a celebrity blog, asked her how she felt about same-sex marriage. She replied that she did not personally believe that two people of the same sex should marry, adding “no offense to anybody out there.”

Trump said at a news conference Tuesday in New York that Prejean “gave a very, very honest answer when asked a very tough question. . . . It’s the same answer that the president of the United States gave. . . . It was probably a fair question because it’s asked of many people. . . . She gave an answer from her heart and I think for that she has to be commended.”

What got Prejean into trouble with the pageant organizers was not her answer to the question, but rather her failure to perform her duties as Miss California after she emerged as a darling of the anti-same-sex-marriage movement.

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On Tuesday, just one day after the pageant directors called her “a runaway train” -- Prejean met with the California directors in New York and they “vented out their differences,” according to the director’s publicist, Roger Neal.

“She’s now going to comply with Miss California USA directors and get back on the platform and agenda of the Miss California pageant. . . . So it’s one big happy family again, I guess,” Neal said.

“They were having some miscommunication with Carrie,” Trump said from a stage where he was joined by Prejean and the two California pageant directors, Shanna Moakler and Keith Lewis. “The communication problem I believe is totally solved. . . . They’ve been meeting for hours in my office. And I really think they have developed a relationship they didn’t have before.”

Prejean thanked the California pageant organizers “for their support thus forward” and said she was committed to carrying out her duties as Miss California. “I am a model; I am a Christian,” said Prejean, who is a student at San Diego Christian College, but on leave, according to the school’s website. “I would like to thank God for trusting me with this large task and giving me the strength to stand by my beliefs.”

Although Prejean portrayed herself as an inadvertent symbol of the anti-same-sex-marriage movement -- “Let me be clear, I am not an activist” -- she didn’t distance herself from the new role her onstage answer brought her.

“I have become an advocate for the importance of not redefining marriage, based on my upbringing and beliefs,” she said. “While I am not the most vocal proponent of traditional marriage, it appears, by my singular response, I have become the most visible.”

Trump also dismissed the semi-nude photos of Prejean circulating on the Web as nothing worse than “risque.” “We’re in the 21st century,” he said.

On Monday, local pageant officials said their concern was that she had not disclosed the existence of the photos when she entered the pageant -- as contestants are asked to do.

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Prejean said Tuesday that the photos -- some she confirmed were images of her; others she said were Photoshopped -- were for a modeling portfolio, not publication. “I did not anticipate that anyone was in a position to release such an image,” she said.

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carla.hall@latimes.com


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