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Ex-Miss Pennsylvania will 'continue to pursue the truth' about pageant

Despite threats of a lawsuit from Miss Universe co-owner Donald Trump, the former Miss Pennsylvania is sticking to her story that Sunday’s Miss USA contest was rigged.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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.’’

“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.’’

“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.’’

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.

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“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.

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

“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.”

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.