TODAY | February 28, 2015
MATT LAUER, co-host: Now to the decision to allow Miss California USA to keep her crown . We'll talk to Carrie Prejean and the man who made the call, Donald Trump , in just a couple of minutes. But first, NBC 's George Lewis has the latest.
GEORGE LEWIS reporting: In announcing that Carrie Prejean would stay on as Miss California USA , the owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, Donald Trump , came up with a big understatement.
Mr. DONALD TRUMP: We had a little bit of a dilemma with Carrie .
LEWIS: A dilemma, indeed. First, there was the flap over her stand on gay marriage .
Ms. CARRIE PREJEAN: A marriage should be between a man and a woman , no offense to anybody out there.
LEWIS: Prejean says she's been unfairly attacked for that.
Ms. PREJEAN: On April 19th on that stage, I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America .
LEWIS: Then there were those photos popping up all over the Internet showing her in various stages of toplessness. Some were faked, she says. Others the result of a sort of wardrobe malfunction .
Ms. PREJEAN: I was actually standing on a cliff and it was very, very windy.
LEWIS: Donald Trump said the photos and her views on gay marriage were not enough to disqualify her.
Mr. TRUMP: Carrie will remain Miss California .
LEWIS: Until that moment, Carrie Prejean seemed in danger of losing her crown . A day earlier, organizers of the Miss California USA pageant had labeled her a "rogue beauty queen " whose conservative Christian supporters had, in their words, hijacked her title. They even appointed pageant runner-up Tami Farrell as their beauty ambassador to fill in for Prejean .
Ms. TAMI FARRELL (Beauty of California Embassador [as shown onscreen]): I just wish there had been an opportunity for her to show remorse, because I think that regardless of what was happening, she was going to be scrutinized for it and it would have softened the situation.
LEWIS: Now, state pageant organizers say they're willing to work with Carrie Prejean for the remainder of her year as Miss California USA .
For TODAY, George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
LAUER: And Carrie Prejean is with us, along with Donald Trump . Good morning to both of you. Nice to see you.
Ms. PREJEAN: Good morning.
Mr. TRUMP: Good morning.
LAUER: I think what people are talking about this morning is not the fact you got to keep your crown , congratulations on that, I think...
Ms. PREJEAN: Thank you.
LAUER: ...a lot of people are talking about your explanation for these latest photos that came out. You say these were accidental, that the wind caused your top to open up and that the photographer in some ways took advantage of that.
Ms. PREJEAN: Exactly right, Matt.
LAUER: I look at some of the photos and I think some people have made this point though, Carrie , and it looks like you're looking right into the camera, that these weren't taken while you were adjusting your makeup or your wardrobe or anything like that. How do you explain that?
Ms. PREJEAN: Well, when you're in a photo shoot , I'm not sure if you're aware, but the photographer is taking, you know, picture after picture immediately after one another. And so it's a very fast process. And when you're standing there, you know, I was right on a cliff. I know it sounds funny, but the wind was blowing and it was just the photographer and I. I should have been a little bit smarter. I shouldn't have been there probably along with him just to have someone monitor that. But you know, I was making adjustments. And if you can see in one of the photos, I was not looking into the camera and it was basically a wardrobe malfunction .
LAUER: Who was the person who took these photos?
Ms. PREJEAN: It was a very well known photographer.
LAUER: But you don't want to give that person's name? I mean after all, apparently that person released these photos.
Ms. PREJEAN: His name is Dominic Petruzzi , mm-hmm.
LAUER: And so you blame him for this.
Ms. PREJEAN: I do.
LAUER: You say you reviewed these photos carefully, Donald . By the strictest interpretation of the pageant rules, did these violate the rules?
Mr. TRUMP: First of all, I think she's going to sue the photographer. I'm only kidding, Matt.
Mr. TRUMP: Don't worry about it. I'm only kidding.
LAUER: Breaking news here on the show. OK.
Mr. TRUMP: This is a major story.
LAUER: By the strictest interpretation of pageant rules, did the photos violate the rules?
No.Because we have the decision making power. Says right in the contract. And as far as I'm concerned, we're living in the 21st century . This is now the 21st century . She's a model, a very successful model in addition to being Miss California . So the answer is no. We made a determination. The determination was that in many cases they were absolutely magnificent photos. There was nothing dirty, there was nothing bad and she looked very beautiful and we said that those photos were absolutely fine.
LAUER: Let me ask the blunt question, Carrie , you know, are there any other photos? You know, are we going to be seeing online more photos that you either took, you know, intentionally or accidentally in the coming days and weeks ?
Ms. PREJEAN: You know -- you know what, that's a great question. I've done many photo shoots , Matt. And if a photographer is willing to release unauthorized photographs of me, it would be like a photographer going into my dressing room and snapping a photo of me with me unaware of it.
LAUER: Are you leaving the possibility open that there may be some other photos out there that may surface?
Ms. PREJEAN: You know what? If a photographer is, you know, willing to make an extra buck and did get a photo of me, so be it.
LAUER: Let me ask you this, Donald . I'll ask you this. As part of this agreement to let Carrie keep her crown , has there been any comment about whether she will or will not continue to go out and speak out against subjects, for example, against same-sex marriage?
Mr. TRUMP: She can speak her mind. It's -- you know, whether you call it freedom of the press or whatever you want to call it, Matt , but she can certainly...
LAUER: It's not technically freedom of speech , because you own...
Mr. TRUMP: No, not technically.
LAUER: ...this pageant.
Mr. TRUMP: That's correct. But I want her to speak her mind and we have other people speaking their minds on different subjects and saying lots of different things. This was a very tough question that was posed to Carrie . She gave her answer from her heart . I'm glad she gave that answer, whether I agree or you agree or anybody, it doesn't matter , that's what she agrees. She said what she said. It became a monster . I mean this answer became something that's amazing. Now I have to tell you this. This answer's been given by many people and nobody care, nobody cares . She gave the answer, and because of her beauty, because of her look, all of a sudden it's this huge media storm . And it's been very interesting, frankly.
LAUER: Real, real quickly. This is the second time I can remember, recently, you've given a second chance . Tara Conner admitted to using drugs, she was out partying hard while -- during her reign as Miss USA , now you've given Carrie a second chance .
Mr. TRUMP: And by the way, with Tara that was a very good decision. She's alcohol, drug-free. She's been really a model.
LAUER: How do you, though, hold future contestants to the rules if they see these second chances?
Mr. TRUMP: Because you have to show flexibility, Matt. There are lots of different things, like these pictures. I mean, they were not, again, living in this day and age , these pictures were absolutely fine.
LAUER: Katie Rees was Miss Nevada in 19 --
in 2006 .She lost her crown as Miss Nevada because some racy pictures showed up. What was the major difference?
Ms. TRUMP: They were seriously racy. That was the difference.
LAUER: Much different?
Mr. TRUMP: I mean, they were seriously racy.
LAUER: Do you have anything to say to Miss North Carolina , Kristen Dalton , who is the Miss USA and who I almost had to look up her name again just to figure out who she was, who's gotten no attention. She's the one who won this crown .
Ms. PREJEAN: I would just like to -- I got the opportunity to meet Kristen and she's a wonderful young woman . And I know that she's doing a fabulous job as Miss USA , so I just want to congratulate her.
LAUER: Well, best of luck with the second chance . Donald , it's good to see you.
Mr. TRUMP: You never mentioned how well we did in the ratings for the " Celebrity Apprentice ," Matt.
LAUER: No, I didn't because I knew you would. I knew you'd get it in. Donald , thanks very much. Carrie , thank you.