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Video: Former Miss Pennsylvania: ‘I want the truth’

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TODAY contributor
updated 8/18/2012 4:01:43 PM ET 2012-08-18T20:01:43

Despite threats of a lawsuit from Miss Universe co-owner Donald Trump, the former Miss Pennsylvania is sticking to her story that this year's Miss USA contest was rigged.

Sheena Monnin, 27, turned in her crown in an angry Facebook post, calling the contest “fraudulent” and labeling the organization “trashy’’ and “lacking in morals.” Trump fired back on TODAY, saying Monnin could expect a lawsuit for defaming his competition. Monnin claims that Miss Florida, Karina Brez, told her that she saw a list detailing the top five finalists before the top 16 had even been announced. 

“I feel disappointed that (Trump) has made some of the statements that he said about me, and I feel prepared to continue to pursue the truth,’’ Monnin said on TODAY. “I know what I heard, and I know what I in turn witnessed come true based on what I heard the contestant said she saw the list, so I’m prepared to continue to march forward.’’

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“The person that supposedly saw the list totally denies that took place,’’ Trump said on TODAY.

Monnin, who was cut from the top 16, did not see the alleged list. In a statement released through the organization, Brez said that mentioning the list was “a throwaway comment” and “never meant as fact.” Brez added that she feels Monnin is “using this situation for her own ends.’’

Video: Trump: Ex-Miss Pennsylvania is sore loser (on this page)

“I know what I heard,’’ Monnin told Ann Curry. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the contestant was serious when she laid out what she said she saw, and I believe her to be true.

“I have many years of psychological training. I know when someone’s telling a joke, I know when someone’s scared and when someone’s serious, and in my opinion her body language was very serious. She looked a little bit scared because she had just seen something that would potentially, drastically change the reputation of the Miss Universe Organization. This is a big deal.’’

Story: Miss USA contestant resigns, says pageant was fixed

At first, Monnin said she didn’t believe Brez, but when the top five were announced in the same order she claims Brez had outlined, she felt something was not right.

“There are many reasons that a list could be laying around with the top five names, but when the names were called out in the order that she said she saw them on the list, that’s just too coincidental to not be true,’’ Monnin said.

Slideshow: Beauty queen scandals (on this page)

“I still feel that strong reaction because I feel an injustice has been done, not only to the other people who were not in the top five but to the thousands of pageant girls across the country who competed believing this is an honest system,’’ she said.

Trump believes that this is a case of sour grapes on the part of a contestant who didn't crack the top 16.

“I never felt that she had a chance,’’ he said Wednesday. “And all this is buyer's remorse.”

Pageant officials also claim that Monnin’s indignation over the pageant's alleged corruption is a cover-up for the real reason she gave up her crown — because the organization decided to allow transgender contestants. Jenna Talackova, 23, a transgender Miss Universe Canada contestant, challenged the rule earlier this year and Trump amended it.

Video: Former Miss Pennsylvania: ‘I want the truth’ (on this page)

Pageant officials released an email in which Monnin detailed her opposition to the decision.

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“I refuse to be part of a pageant system that has so far and so completely removed itself from its foundational principles as to allow and support natural born males to compete in it,” she wrote in the email. “This goes against ever (sic) moral fiber of my being.”

Monnin was cryptic Friday in her response to whether the transgender ruling was a factor in her resignation.

“There are myriad reasons why I resigned,’’ she said. “That is an issue that I discussed with my state director back in April.’’

The winner of Miss USA 2012 was 20-year-old Olivia Culpo from Rhode Island.

“Miss Pennsylvania, like any other person, is entitled to their own opinions. I respect her opinions, but I am upset for her that she will not have the opportunity of being Miss Pennsylvania USA,” Culpo told the Boston Herald. “I feel for her that she has to give up that title, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”

Story: Canadian transgender beauty contestant wins Miss Congeniality

Trump gave Monnin a 24-hour window to issue a public apology for her statements in order to stave off a lawsuit, but that time period has passed and she is sticking to her guns.

“My message is very simple: I would like the truth to be made known,’’ she said. “I am not here to destroy anyone, I am not here to bad talk about anybody. In my opinion, what Miss Florida said is true. There’s really no doubt in my mind. It’s just too much evidence pointing this being fraudulent.’’

She claimed to have received legal documentation regarding her decision with several options, which she did not elaborate on.

“I’m not sure which option I will take, but I do know that moving forward, my main motivation will remain the same,’’ she said.

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Photos: Beauty queen scandals

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  1. Miss Delaware Teen USA

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Melissa King, Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigned her crown on Feb. 26, 2013, after a sex video featuring a woman resembling her surfaced online. (@Melissa_M_King\Twitter) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Called Miss USA 'rigged'

    After Miss Pennsylvania 2012, Sheena Monnin, spoke out on Facebook against the Miss Universe organization in June, calling it "trashy" and "rigged," co-owner Donald Trump threatened a lawsuit. (Miss Universe Organization) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Facing DUI charges

    Former Miss USA Rima Fakih, pictured here on April 11, 2012 as she faces DUI charges in district court in Highland Park, Mich. Fakih pleaded no contest in the case, and on May 9 she was sentenced to probation and community service for driving under the influence and getting pulled over with an open Champagne bottle in her car. (AP, Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A transgender Miss Universe?

    Jenna Talackova, a transgender beauty queen, protested the decision by pageant representatives to drop her from the Miss Universe Canada competition. She was finally given the green light to go by the Donald Trump-led Miss Universe Organization. The 23-year-old will, however, need to prove that she meets the "legal gender recognition requirements of Canada," according to local media. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Miss California 1992

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Miss California 1992 Shannon Marketic, center, was accused of stealing almost $90 in beauty products from a Target store in August 2010. Marketic, 38, denies stealing the items and says they rolled in the cart and landed underneath her purse. (AP, Denton Police Department) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Former Miss California USA 2009

    Hosts Billy Bush and Nadine Velazquez listen as Miss California Carrie Prejean makes her highly publicized answer to a question from judge Perez Hilton about legalizing same-sex marriage during the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas on April 19, 2009. The controversy grew in ensuing weeks when Prejean became the spokesperson for a national group opposing same-sex unions, after which racy photos of her surfaced. Prejean blamed people opposing her views for the release of the photos. She eventually surrendered her crown after pageant officials accused her of missing events, an allegation she denied. (Eric Jamison / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Miss Universe 2008

    Crowned Miss Universe in July 2008, Venezuela's Dayana Mendoza kept her crown despite risque photos that showed the beauty queen topless, though covering most of her chest. The Miss Universe president said that Mendoza’s photographs had "artistic beauty." (Evan Agostini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Miss Washington 2008

    Elyse Umemoto, Miss Washington and second runner-up in this year's Miss America pageant, was shown flipping off the camera while wearing her crown, playing beer pong, posing in her bra and making suggestive hand signs on TMZ.com. (Jacob Andrzejczak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Miss South Florida Fair 2008

    Jessica Wittenbrink, who was crowned Miss South Florida Fair 2008, says her evening gown was smeared with lipstick during the competition. (Uma Sanghvi / Palm Beach Post via Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Miss Puerto Rico 2007

    Ingrid Marie Rivera smiles during a beauty pageant in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Rivera beat 29 rivals to become the island's 2008 Miss Universe contestant, despite applying makeup and wearing evening gowns that had been coated with pepper spray, pageant spokesman Harold Rosario said. (Ricardo Daz Serrano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Miss New Jersey 2007

    Amy Polumbo was crowned Miss New Jersey 2007. An anonymous person threatened to reveal "scandalous" photos of the beauty queen, but Polumbo refused to cave in to the blackmail. She took the incident public and revealed the photos herself on TODAY. (Donald B. Kravitz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Miss USA 2006

    Tara Conner, representing Kentucky, won the Miss USA title in 2006 and moved to New York City where she partied in clubs and drank despite being underage. Donald Trump gave her a reprieve, allowing her to retain the title after she agreed to enter rehab and undergo drug testing. (Chris Gardner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Miss South Carolina Teen USA

    Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina, became a Internet sensation with her nonsensical answer to a question during the Miss Teen USA competition in August 2007. The 18-year-old got a chance to redeem herself on TODAY when she was again asked why one-fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map. (Patrick Prather / Miss Universe via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Miss France 2008

    Despite racy photos that appeared recently in a gossip magazine, Miss France 2008 Valerie Begue will keep her crown, but will not compete in the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Miss Nevada USA 2006

    Katie Rees was stripped of her title in 2006 after racy photos of her appeared on the Internet. Some of the photos showed her kissing other young women, exposing her breasts and pulling down her pants to show her thong underwear. Afterwards, Rees signed a two-year, $2 million-plus deal to host a variety show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In April, Rees agreed to pay fines for five misdemeanor traffic violations in exchange for prosecutors dropping a charge of resisting arrest. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Miss New Jersey USA 2007

    Ashley Harder held the title of Miss New Jersey USA 2007 and was set to compete in the Miss USA pageant before she became pregnant and voluntarily stepped down. Runner-up Erin Abrahamson assumed the title. (Marcin Szczepanski / Courier-Post via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Miss California USA 2008

    Christina Silva, 24, was declared Miss California USA in November only to have her crown revoked days later. Pageant official say a mix-up in tallying the votes led to the wrong woman being crowned. Silva, who is Hispanic, is suing the pageant, alleging rigging and racial bias. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Miss Great Britain 2006

    Danielle Lloyd was stripped of her title after it was revealed that she had posed nude for Playboy and amid accusations that she was dating one of the judges at the time of the contest. Lloyd went on to star in the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 where she and other contestants were accused of bullying and making racist comments about Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. (Guang Niu / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Miss United States Teen 2003

    Former Miss Oregon Teen USA Kari Ann Peniche was stripped of her title in 2003 after she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Peniche appeared as a patient on the VH1 television show Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew but was involuntarily discharged.

    In 2009, a racy video of Peniche, "Grey’s Anatomy" star Eric Dane and his wife Rebecca Gayheart was leaked. The 12-minute video was said to be shot inside Peniche’s apartment, and within it, Gayheart said she was high. (Albert L. Ortega / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008

    Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008 Lindsey Evans was stripped of her crown 10 days before completing her reign. She and her friends skipped out on a $46 restaurant bill, and Evans left behind her purse, which contained a bag of marijuana. The women were arrested for theft and drug possession when they returned to retrieve the purse. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Miss Universe 2002

    Former Miss Russia Oxana Fedorova was fired less than four months into her reign for missing too many events. She was a law student at the time and complained that being Miss Universe interfered with her education. "I never had any intention of abandoning my university work," she said.

    The pageant president said contestants know Miss Universe is a full-time job and that winners spend 80 percent of their time traveling as goodwill ambassadors. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Miss America 1984

    Vanessa Williams, representing New York, became the first black Miss America. She had to resign when nude photos taken before her beauty contest victories were published in Penthouse. The crown was given to Suzette Charles, who's also black. Williams later became a successful singer with such hits as "Save the Best for Last," and "Colors of the Wind." Some of her movie credits include "Eraser," "Soul Food" and "Dance with Me." She currently plays the scheming fashion editor on "Ugly Betty." (Yvonne Hemsey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Miss World 1973

    Marjorie Wallace was dethroned about four months into her reign, after she was accused of dating too many high-profile men, including professional soccer player George Best and singer Tom Jones. The organizers said the first woman from the U.S. to win the title hadn't maintained Miss World's reputation. She later became a television host for "Good Morning Los Angeles" and "Entertainment Tonight." (Evening Standard / Everning Standard via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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