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Miss California Carrie Prejean's Odyssey: Not Very Pretty

The political saga of Carrie Prejean reached its denouement last week. Ms. Prejean, who is now the former Miss California, was fired by the Miss California USA organization for alleged contract violations. She became a conservative icon earlier this year for her outspoken stand on traditional marriage.

Ms. Prejean burst on the national scene on April 19. She announced, during the Miss USA pageant, that “marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” The reaction was immediate. Her comment was sheer apostasy in the glamorous environment of beauty queens and Hollywood gossip-masters. Sleaze-merchant Perez Hilton, who had asked Ms. Prejean if she backed gay marriage, was dumbfounded at the audacity of Ms. Prejean’s honesty. How dare she parrot the “evil” marriage conservatism of the far right’s “Christian dominionists“?

Mr. Hilton followed up the next day by releasing a vulgarity-laced videotape calling Ms. Prejean a “dumb bitch.” The radical gay rights lobby piled on as well, smearing Ms. Prejean with a relentless campaign of personal vilification (blogger Melissa McEwan crowned Ms. Prejean as Miss Anti-Gay USA).

At the time of the controversy, California’s Supreme Court was expected to rule on a challenge to the November 2008 voter initiative that preserved the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Around the state, gay activists launched protests against the measure, known as Proposition 8. With tempers already high on the left over alleged anti-gay bigotry, the Prejean controversy broke into a genuine media extravaganza when topless photographs surfaced from Ms. Prejean’s early modeling days. Capturing the moment, The Week asked, “Does a photo from Miss California’s teen modeling days conflict with her Christian beliefs?” Ms. Prejean responded with this statement:

I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith. I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be.

An investigation by pageant organizers quickly followed. Had Ms. Prejean violated her commitment to Miss USA by failing to disclose employment as a semi-nude underwear model? The controversy was really the subtext of event organizers’ attacks on Ms. Prejean’s views (just as the Internet smear-merchants had planned). Donald Trump, who owns the Miss USA contest, ruled that Prejean would keep her crown. Regarding Ms. Prejean’s response at the April 19th pageant, Mr. Trump said, “She gave an honorable answer. She gave an answer from her heart.”

That didn’t end the controversy, however. Ms. Prejean has claimed ongoing political persecution by Miss USA organizers. A transcript of emails published on June 10 reveals a testy relationship between Ms. Prejean and Keith Lewis, the executive director of K2 Productions and the producer of Miss California USA. At one point, Mr. Lewis asserts, “As we have discussed, there is proper protocol and we have not waived our rights in any way to your contract.” Ms. Prejean responds, “I expect you to be forwarding me ALL email requests and interview requests. … I know how you are and its not right if you are selecting things for me.” Transcripts from previous communications might shed more light on the relationship. But it’s clear from this exchange that Ms. Prejean felt she’d lost any sense of cooperation with the organization.

Ms. Prejean clarified the relationship in a June 12 interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. She claimed that Keith Lewis “had never accepted me.” She argued that she’d been “smeared” for speaking the truth and standing up for her values. She said she was being attacked for her beliefs and her religious convictions. This is a “test for America,” she told Cavuto. “Tolerance needs to be a two-way street.” She also questioned why “political questions” became part of the pageant competition, and she challenged the selection criteria for the panel of judges. And these are fair questions. Shanna Moakler, who was then-co-director to Keith Lewis for Miss California USA, essentially admitted that a gay loyalty oath was required of contest participants, and that the judges had a responsibility to select winning contestants with the “right” views, rather than those with, say, superior skills or standards of honesty. According to Ms. Moakler, Ms. Prejean:

lost the crown because she wasn’t able to convey compassion for ALL the people that as MISS USA she would be representing … and if YOU like it or not, gays and lesbians make up this country as well. THIS is why we have judges so they can find the RIGHT woman who obtains these qualities … they are crucial in my eyes when holding a honor and title as big as being Miss USA. The panel of judges was qualified and did their job, they represented all of us, men, woman, black, white, gay and straight.

Given this kind of top-level thinking, it’s not surprising that Ms. Prejean became exasperated in her dealings with the Miss USA organization.

Carrie Prejean is the radical left’s worst nightmare. Attractive, honest, and well-spoken, she articulates the traditional values on gay marriage that are found repeatedly in public opinion polling. Americans respect the rights of minorities while affirming a majoritarian consensus on the foundations of society in heterosexual marriage. As a result, leftists cheered the firing of Ms. Prejean this week. Michael Musto, at the Village Voice, was ecstatic:

I’m thrilled about this turn of events — it’s poetic justice — though now poor Carrie has no crown, no blouse, no integrity, and no f**king mind!!! And she’s not nice!!!

Just think: All that, and plus some, for a young woman who answered a question honestly!

It’s by now cliche to note the intensity of our political polarization. But in the commonplace of social division, Carrie Prejean has demonstrated the majesty, maturity, and poise of a true queen. As she noted in her statement upon being stripped of her crown:

I am proud to be an American, and blessed to have had the opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech. I am excited and looking forward to where God leads me in the future. I know He has big plans for me. I am proud to be the strong woman God has molded me to be. I will always stand for the truth, respectfully, and never back down.

Carrie Prejean now plans to write a book about her experiences. And she may very well find a career in television broadcasting (having already hosted a guest episode on Fox News). But in the end, whatever may come, Carrie Prejean will be remembered for upholding honor and truth — and those are the “right” values for any future contestant seeking the Miss USA crown.