Beauty Queen Pays $5M for Calling Miss USA Contest ‘Rigged’

Posted December 26, 2012 in Jury Awards Litigation by

Former Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, upper body shot

Sheena Monnin, Miss Pennsylvania, resigned her crown claiming the contest is rigged, but according to organizers the beauty queen was upset over the decision to allow transgender contestants to enter. A posting on Monnin’s Facebook page claims another contestant learned the names of the top 5 finishers on Sunday morning, hours before the show was broadcast. (AP Photo/Miss Universe Organization, Darren Decker)

A beauty queen who said the Miss USA contest was fixed must pay the pageant $5 million for defamation.

Miss Pennsylvania USA, Sheena Monnin, said on Facebook and on the “Today” show that the five Miss USA finalists were already picked before the pageant aired on live TV.

The pageant organization sued for defamation, claiming that those comments caused a sponsor to pull out of paying a $5 million fee.

The case went to arbitration, based on an arbitration provision in the contract Monnin signed when she became a contestant.

The arbitrator, Theodore Katz, found that Monnin‘s comments were false, harmful and malicious, and ordered her to pay $5 million in damages. Monnin resigned her state title after the pageant.

Arbitrator Theodore Katz

Katz found that the way the Miss USA pageant is judged made it impossible for it to be rigged. He said that Monnin made the comments as a “disgruntled contestant who failed to make it past the preliminary competition.” Her other motivation for the defamatory comments, Katz said in his decision, was that she objected to the pageant’s decision to allow transgender contestants.  

 Neither Monnin nor her attorney, Richard Klineburger III, participated in the arbitration proceeding and claimed they were not required to do so.

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