When Beauty Contestants Play Hardball

Should beauty competitions nix controversial issue questions?

Expressing unqualified support for world peace is still safe, but beauty pageant contestants risk a shot at the tiara when they opine on more polarizing issues.

A year after Miss California Carrie Prejean claimed her anti-gay marriage stance cost her the Miss USA crown, controversy flared up again at this year’s Donald Trump-owned pageant after hopefuls answered another round of politically-themed questions.

Some on the right have suggested this year’s runner-up Miss Oklahoma Morgan Elizabeth Woolard lost out to winner Rima Fakih for expressing support for Arizona’s tough new immigration law. But should judges even consider opinions on hot-button issues in beauty competitions? Pundits weigh-in.

  • Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin accuses pageant judges of a liberal bias. “Looks like the Miss USA pageant didn’t want to risk the wrath of the open-borders mob,” Malkin writes, referring to Woolard’s pro-Arizona stance.
  • Conservative Powerline blogger John Hinderaker notes Rima Fakih’s swimsuit photo alone makes her a worthy winner and Fakih also had to “navigate a minefield” in being asked to weigh in on birth control. But Hinderaker calls for ending political questions altogether during pageants. “It is unrealistic to expect judges to put aside their own prejudices and judge beauty contestants on the quality of their answers to politically-loaded questions, regardless of the side on which the contestant comes down,” Hinderaker writes.
  • Entertainment Weekly PopWatch blogger Jennifer Armstrong agrees with beauty queen hopefuls being asked controversial interview questions. “It’s not so much that I care what they think, but that they think at all,” she writes. Armstrong further advocates that judges consider backgrounds of contestants like Fakih in making decisions. “She’ll serve as a role model to Arab-American girls who, perhaps, haven’t felt that they belonged — goodness knows they may have encountered reason to feel otherwise in the last several years.”
  • Margery Eagan writes for the Boston Herald that the real winner from the Miss USA controversies of the past couple of years has been The Donald. “For two years he’s managed to wrap a boring, anachronistic beauty pageant around America’s most roiling political issues,” she writes.
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