Miss Universe pageant officials fight back on rigging claim
PHILADELPHIA — Lawyers for the Miss Universe Organization have filed an arbitration action that seeks monetary damages from a former contestant who claims the pageant is a sham, pageant officials said Friday.
The pageant filed the action with a private dispute-resolution entity over the former Miss Pennsylvania USA’s claim that another contestant spotted the list of finalists on a planning sheet hours before the event was held Sunday, outside counsel Scott Balber said.
A statement from the New York-based Miss Universe Organization said it is seeking remedies including monetary damages for her “ongoing defamatory statements.” Balber would not say how much money organizers are seeking.
The pageant also released a statement from Miss Florida USA — the contestant Sheena Monnin claims saw the list — in which she disputes Miss Pennsylvania’s account of the events that prompted her to step down.
Monnin gave up her crown Monday, claiming in a Facebook post that the pageant had been rigged, with the top five finishers selected before the show was broadcast Sunday night from Las Vegas.
Pageant organizers immediately denied Monnin’s allegation and claimed she had actually stepped down because she disagreed with the pageant’s decision to allow transgender contestants.
Earlier Friday, Monnin told NBC’s “Today” show that she was standing by her claim that Miss Florida USA confided to her that she had seen a list of finalists Sunday morning.
Monnin claimed Karina Brez named the top five contestants in the same order they were called during the broadcast.
“That’s just too coincidental to not be true,” she said.
A statement released Friday by Brez disputes Monnin’s account. “The list I saw didn’t even have the eventual winner on it,” the statement read.